GPS key to court case

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Queenstown Lakes District Council may pull a prosecution against Kawarau Jet if the company installs GPS equipment on its boats.

QLDC boss Duncan Field has been in talks with KJ about global positioning technology.

The aim is to avoid disputes over whether KJ drivers breach consent conditions by going within five metres of islands, willowed edges or riverbanks.

Drivers must only breach the limit for safety’s sake. “They’ve pretty much committed to do something but they’re still trying to work out the technical issues,” Field says.

A month ago QLDC slapped an abatement notice on KJ for alleged repeated breaches of the five-metre rule, requiring immediate compliance.

The first incident, on January 15, involved a jetboat coming within two metres of harbourmaster Marty Black when he was on a riverbank.

A second alleged incident in May involved a mystery shopper sting conducted by QLDC compliance quango Lakes Environ­mental. QLDC has laid a District Court prosecution against KJ over the January 15 incident.

Field says no date for installation of GPS on KJ boats has been set.

“That’s the other half of the deadline – I’d like to know the how and the when about whether [GPS is] going to be put in place before we potentially consider withdrawing that prosecution.”

Field says discussions with KJ on GPS is about “continuing to raise the level of safety for jetboating”.

He’s unsure if the technology would help a driver whilst driving but it “would definitely work as an after-the-fact thing”.

“You wouldn’t have the arguments we’re having at the moment where someone says ‘Yes he was, no he wasn’t’,” Field says.

When the abatement notice was first dished out, KJ director Shaun Kelly told Mountain Scene his drivers may have breached limits but “we’ve rectified it”.

QLDC has since taken over management of immediate KJ compliance issues from Lakes Environmental.

Thunder Jets are go – again

A jetboat operator has won two hard-fought consents to run trips on Queenstown’s Kawarau River but isn’t breaking out the bubbly.

Thunder Jet’s applications to separately run one and three boats daily were approved this week by Queenstown Lakes District Council commissioners, despite existing operator Kawarau Jet’s vigorous opposition.

“We think a sensible outcome’s prevailed,” says Thunder Jet co-owner Duncan Storrier, but accepts there’s a “reasonable chance” KJ will appeal.

“This is a good milestone, but that’s all it is.”

KJ co-owner Andy Brinsley won’t comment till he’s seen the decision.

Thunder Jet’s original consent to run, which it exercised for three months last summer, was cancelled when a High Court judge found Kawarau Jet should have been consulted – it later reapplied for two separate consents, which were heard in July.

Storrier says the consent battle’s so far cost “hundreds and hundreds” of thousands of dollars.