New boat for buoyant business

JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 10:17 24/12/2012
Southland Times photo
JOHN EDENS/Fairfax NZ
Thunder Jet director Neville Kelly at the launch part for Thunder 3.

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Family-run Queenstown adventure tour operator Thunder Jet launched a sleek new $300,000 boat at the weekend.

SOUTHLAND TIMES

Bluff-based McKenzie Marine & Mackraft, a specialised boat- building firm, spent four months building Thunder 3, a wider, lighter and highly manoeuvrable craft.

It was officially launched after a traditional Maori blessing in Queenstown Bay on Saturday.

Thunder Jet director Neville Kelly said the new boat was equipped with buoyancy tanks, a self-draining deck, a marine stereo sound system and two 410hp LS3 engines with aluminium motors and Hamilton jet units.

"It's got seven [buoyancy] compartments so it's virtually unsinkable. It's a big step for us in two years; we've got consent for four boats."

It was a little less than two years since the company resumed business and the new boat expanded the fleet to three and a maximum capacity of about 60 people.

Business was solid, with numbers increasing each month this year for the 44km thrill trip in Lake Wakatipu, the Frankton arm and the Kawarau River.

Sister company Queenstown Water Taxis secured a contract to run services to and from the Queenstown Hilton Hotel.

In January last year, Thunder Jet was finally granted operating rights after being dragged into a consent wrangle with rival firm KJet.

KJet had appealed against a Queenstown Lakes District Council decision allowing a rival operator on Lake Wakatipu and the Kawarau River but, after a series of hearings, the Environment Court ordered a payout to the council and Thunder Jet.

john.edens@stl.co.nz

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