Queenstown tourism operator Kawarau Jet has been slapped with a $30,000 fine for taking punters out in dangerous weather.
Kawarau Jet Services Holdings Limited was also pinged $5000 by Judge Dominic Flatley in the Queenstown District Court yesterday for failing to report an incident to Maritime New Zealand.
The local company had pleaded guilty to three charges – after two boats took paying passengers for a spin on December 18, 2009 in windy conditions, and for failing to notify MNZ when an engine on one boat was swamped by a wave, causing it to stop.
On the day, gale-force winds and heavy rain were forecast and no other commercial craft were operating because of the weather, the summary of facts shows.
“There was absolutely no doubt these boats shouldn’t have been on the water with passengers in them,” Judge Flatley said.
“What this is all about is ensuring that those who are passengers on boats operating with the likes of this company are safe. Their safety must be paramount and cannot be overlooked in favour of commercial gain,” Judge Flatley said.
He deemed the company’s culpability as “medium level” and said the fines deter operators from taking passengers out on Lake Wakatipu “when there was clearly risk”.
On the day, jetboat driver Jamie Beer had 17 clients, including five kids, aboard when the wave hit his boat and stopped the engine.
Despite this incident, fellow driver George Wallis took another Kawarau Jet craft out – with 12 passengers, including four children.
The sentencing of Kawarau Jet for breaches of maritime safety rules is a reminder to tourism operators of the importance of following safe operating procedures, MNZ said in a statement yesterday.