Hovercraft proposal opens options

Fancy taking a hovercraft ride over Lake Pukaki? It could happen.

H2Explore, run by Riaan and Collette van der Westheuzen of Twizel, have lodged a consent application for a hovercraft operation.

The hovercraft would speed across Lake Pukaki and the Tasman River from Glentanner Park.

Planning documents filed with the Mackenzie District Council stipulated the craft would be no louder than 78 decibels at full speed - the maximum allowed noise level for a controlled activity in the district is 85 decibels.

H2 Explore would run a 12-seater hovercraft three times a day. It would be housed in a hangar at Glentanner Park outside of business hours.

"Hovercraft are environmentally friendly and can operate in ecologically sensitive areas such as rivers, wetlands and swamps ... the pressure on ground or water is less than the force of a bird walking or a seagull standing on one leg," the documents said.

The planning documents propose its business could be "the accessible and affordable link between Mt Cook Village and the Alps2Ocean cycleway".

"The possibility of having a hovercraft on Lake Pukaki will have a substantial effect on tourists visiting this area ... it will be possible to cross the Tasman River from Mt Cook airport," it said.

The cycleway is a 312km route from Aoraki-Mt Cook to Oamaru - it received more than $2.75 million in Government funding, as well as financial support from Waitaki and Mackenzie district councils.

Waitaki District Council chief executive Michael Ross welcomed H2Explore's proposal, as parts of the Alps2Ocean cycleway could only be reached by helicopter.

"This is an example of a business thinking outside the box and using their imagination ... the cycleway has spawned so many opportunities, it's been an amazing boon for everyone," Mr Ross said.

Mackenzie District Council planning manager Nathan Hole said the activity was "unusual" but appeared to fit within the council's regulations.

"The district plan allows for commercial activity on the water, such as boating. We haven't had hovercrafts before, but it fits within the spirit of the plan," he said.

It had received the provisional support, provided it operated under strict conditions, from Fish & Game, the Department of Conservation, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, the local harbourmaster and Ngai Tahu.

Mr Hole said the consent could become active, subject to appeals, within 15 working days.

The Timaru Herald