Shotover Jet boat in mystery incident

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2012
Shotover Jet boat
GRANT BRYANT/Fairfax NZ
RIVER ADVENTURE: A Shotover Jet boat laden with tourists powers through the Shotover Canyon yesterday afternoon.

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A mystery incident involving a Shotover Jet boat last year has led to changes in the tourism pioneer's licence agreement to operate on the Shotover River.

The incident was mentioned at the Queenstown Lakes District Council's finance and corporate committee meeting yesterday – but only as "an incident on the Shotover River involving Shotover Jet boats".

Further discussion about Shotover Jet, and presumably the incident, was continued behind the closed boardroom doors of a public-excluded discussion.

The full council received a report about the incident in its December 16 meeting – but this was also discussed under public exclusion.

Shotover Jet has been owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism since 2001, but needs a Licence and Concession Agreement ratified by the council to operate on the Shotover River.

Queenstown Lakes harbourmaster Marty Black said he was unable to comment on the incident, as he was a council employee, and Maritime New Zealand said they would only release details of the incident under the Official Information Act.

However, Shotover Jet general manager Clarke Scott was happy to clarify the situation, saying the use of the word "incident" was misleading and heavy handed.

"I would rather not comment at this stage and would leave that to Ngai Tahu southern regional manager David Kennedy, who is overseas at the moment," he said.

"What I will say is that it was not an incident. We would classify it as a near miss.

"Something happened on the river that shouldn't have, which involved a non-commercial jet boat."

The current Licence and Concession Agreement was renewed for five years in April 2009, and will expire in 2014.

However, the mystery occurrence with the non-commercial jet boat last year is not the first to have an impact on Shotover Jet's operations.

In January 2008 former Canterbury Crusaders and current Australian Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had a near-miss when he failed to stop his own V6 jet boat at Big Beach, near the southern mouth of the Shotover Canyon. At that time private boats were able to follow commercial boats back up the canyon.

The Deans incident and other near misses led to the enactment of the council's Shotover River Bylaw in May 2009, which restricted public access to the Shotover River concession area, unless a permit was granted. A clause in Shotover Jet's concession agreement that stated "boats will pass only at Big Beach," will now be replaced by an agreement that the company will only operate in compliance with its approved Safe Operating Plan, and that it "will promptly advise council of any approved changes made to its SOP."

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