New jetboat player in Queenstown

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A THIRD jetboat firm could soon be operating from Lake Wakatipu on Queenstown’s waterways.

Eco Jet Ltd has resurrected its historic resource consent application to operate jetboat trips, water taxis and a charter service on Lake Wakatipu, Kawarau River and Shotover River.

The Queenstown firm – owned by local developer Alistair Hey and former Queenstown Lakes District Council boss Duncan Field – originally submitted the land use consent application for the lake and rivers in 2011.

It was publicly notified on September 18 this year and the deadline for submissions was yesterday.

Eco Jets Ltd wants permission to operate a fleet of up to four jetboats – with space for 15 customers, a driver and a crew member.

The boats would be trailered from garages on Glenda Drive each day and launched at Frankton Marina.

They would pick up passengers at Queenstown Bay’s Butson/Lapsley Wharf and run hour-long trips to either the Arrow confluence on the Kawarau or Tucker Beach on the Shotover and back.

The jetboats would also operate as water taxis and charters to Remarkables Park, Jack’s Point, Walter Peak, Mt Nicholas and other jetties. The application is for 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm.

Three companies currently operate jetboat trips in and around Queenstown.

Thunder Jet and KJet run from Queenstown Bay – taking passengers on Lake Wakatipu around Queenstown Gardens, along the Frankton Arm and down Kawarau River.

Kawarau Jet, which also operates along the Shotover River, and associated company Clearwater Pursuits Ltd were ordered to pay $187,500 to its rival Thunder Jet (Queenstown Water Taxis Ltd) and $133,000 to Queenstown Council in 2011 after a long-running Environment Court battle.

Kawarau Jet had waged a three-year battle against the council’s decision to grant consent to Thunder Jet to operate.

Kawarau Jet – whose co-director Shaun Kelly is the brother of Thunder Jet owner Neville Kelly – had opposed consent on the grounds of river safety and radio communication compatibility issues.

But Auckland Judge Laurie Newhook said it was motivated by trade competition. 

The decision ended Kawarau Jet’s 10-year Kawarau River monopoly and could have a major bearing on Eco Jet’s bid.

Shotover Jet and Dart River Jet Safaris – both owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism – run trips from Arthurs Point and Glenorchy respectively.

Field referred Mountain Scene to Hey for comment but he did not return calls.