Queenstown jetboat drivers’ dilemma over the activity’s risks

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Commercial jetboaters face a dilemma over how much they should tell passengers about potential risks before boarding, a report reveals. 

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) inquiry into the 2008 Kawarau Jet death of Chinese tourist Yan Wang says safety issues within the industry need to be addressed in the Government’s soon-to-be-released adventure tourism review. 

TAIC, an independent Crown entity, has investigated 19 commercial jetboat incidents nationwide since 1995 – four of which involved boats rolling. TAIC previously recommended for roll-bars to be fitted, despite admitting the permanent risk of roll-overs. 

“The dilemma the industry faces is what else can be done to mitigate the risks and how much the travelling public should be told of those risks before deciding to undertake the activity,” the report, released in April, says. 

“Some guidance will be required from the regulator [Maritime New Zealand] on that issue, because there will be a competing interest in how much to tell prospective customers at the risk of losing that patronage in what has become a multi-million dollar tourist activity.” 

TAIC’s recommended MNZ take its Kawarau Jet findings to the Government – “and ask them to consider how to deal with informing potential commercial jetboat passengers of the risks inherent with the activity”. 

The Department of Labour-led adventure tourism review is still being finalised. 

Local harbourmaster Marty Black says considering 370,000 people take commercial trips nationwide each year, the activity is “pretty safe”. 

“You can have all controls in place … but at the end of the day there’s always some risk there, you just have to be mindful of it.” 

It’s important not to “bamboozle” people with too much information when delivering safety briefings – “it goes 
straight over their heads”, he says.

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