New catamaran to ply lake

A concept image of the new Southern Discoveries Spirit of Queenstown catamaran on Lake Wakatipu. Photo supplied.
A concept image of the new Southern Discoveries Spirit of Queenstown catamaran on Lake Wakatipu. Photo supplied.
A new multimillion-dollar catamaran will carry passengers on Lake Wakatipu by the end of the year.

Tourism company Southern Discoveries has invested in excess of $4 million in the high-speed catamaran, which will be named the Spirit of Queenstown and carry 150 passengers.

The 26m vessel will be launched in November and travel from Queenstown to Mt Nicholas Station for what Southern Discoveries is calling a ''nature-based'' experience.

It will be the only commercial boat offering direct excursions to the Mt Nicholas Station and the company has not yet released what activities they have planned for passengers when they arrive, although it would include a high country experience, Southern Discoveries General Manager John Robson said.

Mr Robson said the company planned to team up packages with their K-Jet boat based in Queenstown and the catamaran was the start of a planned expansion in the area.

Southern Discoveries already has five boats operating eight trips a day from Milford Sound employing more than 90 people and the introduction of the Spirit of Queenstown would mean hiring an extra 10 to 12 people.

Mr Robson said the boat was not in direct competition with Real Journey's TSS Earnslaw as it offered a different package, including weddings, night cruises and private functions.

''It is a different offering to the Earnslaw and can never compete with that.

''It is something with a clear difference.''

The decision to invest in the single-level catamaran was significant and reflected the ''entrepreneurial and forward-thinking visions'' of the owner of the company the Skeggs Group.

The boat was designed by Brett Crowther, of Incat Crowther, and will be constructed by Aluminium Marine Pty Ltd, of Brisbane.

It will sail to Bluff, then be transported to Kingston to be launched on Lake Wakatipu.

Over the past four years the company has rebranded from Milford Sound Red Boats to Southern Discoveries, acquired Te Anau-based coach and tour operation Go Milford, invested in a 50% shareholding in KJet and reopened the Milford Discovery Centre and Milford Deep Underwater Observatory.

The company also owns Queenstown Princess, a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu.

''We're happy that we have been successful and sustainable in our expansion aims, but also that we've maintained our status as tourism operator of excellence, in keeping with this incredible region we operate in.''

The boat will run three trips daily and the company has already confirmed resource consents to run into the Frankton Arm before 10pm.