Accused boatie is in the clear, says veteran riverside resident
An eyewitness is backing a private boatie hit with a safety complaint by Queenstown’s Kawarau Jet.
Frankton’s riverside Zoological Gardens owner Ivan Young insists Rob “Blue” Gardner did nothing wrong when going down Kawarau River two weekends back.
“I just couldn’t believe it when I read he’d been accused of coming down on the wrong side,” Young says. “If everybody took a leaf out of his book there’d be no bother on the river.”
Gardner alleged in Mountain Scene last week the complaint against him had been “trumped up” by KJ to bolster its case against rival Thunder Jet – which is pitching for consents to operate on the same stretch of water.
KJ director Andy Brinsley denied the accusation: “I absolutely refute that.”
Harbourmaster Marty Black – himself just cleared on a safety complaint laid by KJ – also said the grievance against Gardner was going nowhere.
Young, in his 80s, and daughter Pene have taken a keen interest in boaties’ behaviour and operations near their property, where Ivan has lived since 1965.
Pene wrote a letter in March, supporting Thunder Jet’s proposed operation.
The next month she and Ivan were visited by Brinsley and KJ lawyer Jim Castiglione. Both Pene and Ivan claim Castiglione asked her to withdraw the letter, which Castiglione denies.
Castiglione says the letter appeared to raise concerns about KJ operations and the meeting was set up to address those directly.
He says he also explained to her “that if her correspondence was being treated as written approval [for Thunder Jet] then any concerns she had – e.g. on safety or the number of boats already allowed or proposed on the river – would not be taken into account at the hearing”.
Pene says the meeting made her “see red”, and hardened her resolve to speak in support of Thunder Jet, which she did at a hearing earlier this month.
Weeks prior to the Castiglione meeting, Pene says KJ director Shaun Kelly’s wife offered her a dozen doves – worth $20 each – as a gift to the Gardens.
“We discussed it and decided the answer is no, because it’s like you’re obligated, so to speak,” Pene says. “It was a nice offer but the timing was not very good.”
Asked why the offer was made, Kelly says: “This is absolutely ridiculous.
“My wife has got doves, there are too many of them, they’re breeding all the time, and it’s outrageous the way people can construe things.
“My wife just wanted to find a home for them.”