Family of drowned kayaker don't want river closed

Louise Jull, 26, died while kayaking in Kaituna River near Rotorua in March.
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Louise Jull, 26, died while kayaking in Kaituna River near Rotorua in March.

The family of a kayaker who drowned after getting caught on a log while paddling a Rotorua river does  not want it closed off as the result of her death.

At an inquest into Louise Jull's death in the Coroners Court in Rotorua on Wednesday her father Adrian said his daughter had paddled that section of the Kaituna River many times before and knew the risks posed by logs.

Julls, an experienced kayaker, drowned on March 11 after getting into trouble while paddling the upper section of the Kaituna Riverwith partner Ryan Lucas and friend Joe Morley.

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Top kayaker Louise Jull drowns near Rotorua
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 Family, friends farewell kayaker Louise Jull

As she tried to swim out of her kayak her spraydeck became entangled on a log submerged between one and two metres below the river surface.

Lucas and Morley got to the bottom of this particular section and waited for Jull, but only her flotation device came floating down.

As they were unable to paddle back up the river they continued to the nearest exit point and went down again to find Jull's kayak wedged against a log, but they could not see her.

Police were then notified and a search began.

Her body was found the next day.

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Adrian Jull said he supported a call for active tree removal from the area.

Evidence from the kayak community suggested the majority of logs that made this part of the river hazardous, come from forestry operations on the edge of the gorge.

They told the coroner they'd successfully removed some of these logs in the past and would like to work collaboratively with Bay of Plenty Regional Council to continue reducing this hazard.

The upper part of the river is not currently used commercially.

Harbourmaster James Buell said he earlier considered the removal of trees from the river but no longer saw this option feasible due to cost, access to the area and safety. 

"I am conscious that the kayaking fraternity regards the upper section of the river a 'jewel' in New Zealand's white-water crown," he told Coroner Wallace Bain.

"However, my focus is on ensuring maritime safety and if an experienced talented kayaker with local knowledge couldn't survive kayaking in this area, then it begs the question in my mind whether anyone should be kayaking this area."

He said he would consider the coroner's recommendations before any decision on the future use of the river would be made.

"I will also consider any feedback from kayakers or Whitewater NZ about the safety issues highlighted by this inquest and the potential closure of the upper section of the river."  

Jull's mother Elizabeth and sister Isobelle read out a eulogy through tears and expressed how amazing Jull was and how much she was missed.

Coroner Bain reserved his decision to forestry contractors and land owners on each side of the river time to make submissions.

 - Stuff

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