Boaties in court for canyon capers.
A raft of prosecutions is pending against private jetboaters for breaching safety regulations on the Shotover River.
Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black is “taking a hard line” with anyone found illegally entering the Shotover Jet concession area upstream from Tucker Beach.
He confirms at least five boaties face fines – with a maximum penalty of $20,000 each. And Black reveals it’s now going to be more difficult for others to breach river access rules introduced by Queenstown Lakes District Council last May.
That’s because a new state-of-the-art video surveillance system has recently been installed at Tucker Beach by Shotover Jet – it captures every move.
“These prosecutions are going through because people have ignored signage at Frankton Marina, at the delta of the Kawarau and Shotover confluence, and there’s also a huge stop sign to go past at Tucker Beach,” Black says.
“It’s disappointing and it’s just not acceptable, especially considering the number of accidents on the waterways recently.”
The move comes after a black six months on Wakatipu’s rivers with three jetboat deaths and five serious injuries.
The harbourmaster admits some boaties nabbed in the recent clampdown were caught red-handed by the new Shotover Jet camera.
“It really monitors the situation and if anything comes through that shouldn’t, an alarm goes off on the Shotover Jet boats. That’s how we’ve caught some of them.
“The alarm goes off straight away. And straight away they’re nicked – because we’ve got photos.”
Since last May, private jetboaters have been required to have permits to ply the restricted area. Boaties must also undertake a safety briefing with Shotover Jet and book a time in advance to use the stretch of river.
Around 20 boaties have applied for permits since the new rules came in.
Black says part of the concession deal Shotover Jet has with QLDC means the jetboat giant must advise him of any breaches by private boats without permission to be there.
“But Shotover Jet is not trying to restrict access. They’re just trying to make the access safe.”
Prosecutions are being carried out by Lakes Environmental, the enforcement quango of QLDC.
And Black insists those found to be in the wrong will be hammered in the pocket.
“There are one or two prosecutions lodged with the court and another three or four coming up shortly,” he says.
“Our instructions are from the council that we have to take a hard line on it as it’s got some serious implications.”
Black adds: “Obviously, fines won’t be as high as the maximum of $20,000 but they could certainly be quite a considerable amount. It’s not just a few hundred dollars.”
Roger Taylor, regulatory boss at QLDC, is also dismayed that some jetboaters are flouting the rules. “Given what’s been happening on [local] waterways this summer in particular, then of course it’s hugely disappointing,” he says.
“The reason it’s a restricted area is because of safety. If someone doesn’t have permission to be there, they should turn around and get out.”
Shotover boss Clark Scott admits they’ve just installed a new “boat detection system” costing “tens of thousands of dollars” at Tucker Beach.
But he insists it’s purely for safety and not to catch people out.
“Shotover Jet as an organisation is not interested in QLDC or the law addressing the individuals who fail to comply with the signage,” Scott says.
“The reason for the detection system is to alarm us that someone is there and it would be fair to say we’re not in the business of apprehending offenders.”