Rugby bosses slam parapente drop-in

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Parapenters are no longer welcome to drop into rugby games at the Queenstown Recreation Ground. 

After witnessing several pilots land on the embankment sideline during a game last Saturday, Wakatipu Rugby Club president Damien O’Connell has blown the whistle on them. 

“It could be a dangerous thing if something goes wrong. 

“I don’t think they should be landing there – it’s a safety issue.” 

O’Connell has emailed his concerns to Queenstown Lakes District Council community services boss Paul Wilson, ahead of this Saturday’s derby game between Wakatipu and Arrowtown, when the embankment’s likely to be chocker. 

O’Connell understands QLDC will put up some warning signage at the parapenters’ Bowen Peak launch pad. 

Wakatipu Premiers’ coach, former Highlander Kelvin Middleton, jokes: “If they land in the middle of the paddock during a game they’d know about it – rucking is just about banned now but I’m sure players can bring it back for a few moments.” 

Southern Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club safety officer Dominic Eller says it’s mainly solo pilots who land on the Recreation Ground, to avoid the approach path taken by tandem flyers using the Queenstown Primary field opposite. 

Eller doesn’t concede his pilots have endangered spectators but accepts some inexperienced ones “mightn’t always have the utmost accuracy on their landings”. 

His club will recommend solo flyers land elsewhere, for example at Warren Park, by Wakatipu High, when the rugby’s on. 

“We try and work in and around everyone as much as we can,” Eller says.