Hovercraft approved for river

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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Tourists will be able to take a hovercraft ride along the Tasman River by Christmas.

Twizel-based business H2 Explore has received approval from the Mackenzie District Council to operate the business, after liaison with local iwi and the Conservation Department.

H2 Explore spokeswoman Rebecca Harnett said it was pleased consent matters were sorted after an "interesting period".

She said the hovercraft would speed across the Tasman River to Tasman Point, and act as a drop-off for the 312km Alps2Ocean cycle trail.

"Right now, you can only reach the link by helicopter from the Aoraki-Mt Cook airport. This will offer an alternative route.

"It offers an ecological experience. You can't walk along there, but you can take in the sights. It's pretty wild country," Ms Harnett said.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said the marketing body had spoken to H2 Explore.

"It provides an alternative method of crossing to get to the next stage of the cycle trail, and it's a point of difference. It will be cool to watch this develop," he said.

"This is another interesting business which has come out of the trail."

Planning documents filed with the Mackenzie District Council stipulated that 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.

"If we weren't supporters of eco-tourism, we would have just bought a jetboat."

She hoped the Twizel offices would open for bookings in July.

"The cycleway link is the first project, but we have other ones in the pipeline," Ms Harnett said.

She admitted the vehicles cost "several million dollars".

"We're in this for the long haul; this has been nearly three years in the making. We're not going to cut corners."

The vehicles can take up to 12 passengers, while H2 Explore had consents to operate hovercrafts up to four times a day. There would be up to 12 staff employed, including two pilots.

Ms Harnett said the company would also offer its hovercraft for DOC and search and rescue services.

"If they need them in an emergency, we're happy to get on board," she said.

According to the planning documents, Pacific Hovercrafts of Christchurch would supply the hovercrafts.

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- The Timaru Herald

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