Dart River Jet’s tit-for-tat

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A tourism operator is considering commissioning a study to determine whether its jetboats damage the environment near Queenstown. 

Ngai Tahu Tourism has come under fire from Kinloch residents who claim the wash from its Dart River Jet Safaris’ boats erodes river banks. 

The operator has applied for Department of Conservation permission to continue running on the Dart, through Mount Aspiring National Park, for the next 20 years. 

Three submitters opposing the concession presented their case at a formal DoC hearing held late last month and called for an environmental impact assessment. 

Ngai Tahu Tourism southern regional boss David Kennedy has confirmed the operator is now in talks with recognised river systems expert Dr Henry Hudson about a study – but says it’s not a response to pressure from residents. 

“I’ve spoken to him but not gone any further,” Kennedy says. “We haven’t actually contracted anyone but it is something we’re considering. We’re always look­­ing at that sort of thing, so it’s nothing different. 

“Our position hasn’t changed. We’ve always said there’ll be some impacts from jetboats but they’d be minimal compared to the massive impact of the natural movement of the river.” 

The concerns of two submitters – Kinloch Lodge owner John Glover and resident Alistair Angus – are now being considered by the DoC hearing chair, who’ll make a recommendation to acting Otago Southland conservator Neil Clifton within the next week. 

Glover says: “We know that when the river flows there will be an effect. 

“But our underlying concern is that until there is recognition of the fact boating can accelerate erosion, nothing will be done to manage it. 

“There are vulnerable areas. We’re not trying to end commercial jetboating, we’re trying to achieve responsible jetboating.” 

Glover wants drivers educated on what type of banks they shouldn’t jet wash and where 360 spins are appropriate. 

Angus adds: “At the moment, it’s just an adrenalin blast with a hoon for a driver. You see them blasting around the channels like it’s a bloody go-kart. It’s completely out of line.”
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Kennedy says the jetboats operate within regulations: “I’m not sure when they became experts on jetboat driving.
“They’re entitled to their subjective opinion on styles of driving but as I’ve said earlier we do every­thing within the law, including the way we drive our boats.”