Kayakers oppose KJet

Allowing commercial jet-boats on a section of the Kawarau River popular with kayakers would be akin to allowing motorcycles on parts of the Milford Track or rally cars on the Otago Central Rail Trail, a regional kayaking group has said in response to an application by KJet.

Jet-boat operator KJet wants to extend its route to include a 1.4km stretch of the Kawarau River, downstream from the Arrow confluence, to the Kawarau suspension bridge.

In a statement, Central Otago Whitewater, which represents kayakers in Alexandra, Cromwell, Wanaka and Queenstown, said the section KJet had applied to operate on was part of one of the most popular whitewater kayaking runs in Central Otago.

The group said the grade 3 whitewater section had three main rapids and KJet's application affected the area containing the first of those rapids.

''A heavily laden jet-boat travelling at speed in constricted turbulent white water rapids poses a lethal threat to kayakers who have a low profile, moving noiselessly through that white water,'' the statement said.

The group said the 5-knot speed limit in place on that section of the Kawarau River and the navigation safety bylaw prohibiting powered craft downstream of the Arrow River were fundamental in keeping people safe.

KJet also proposes to build a jetty near the bungy centre and included in the application are extensive safety plans which state there would be a ''spotter'' stationed above the river who would communicate with all KJet vessels ''regarding their location on the river and the location of other river users''.

The national kayaking body, Whitewater NZ, is also watching KJet's application.

Earlier this month the Otago Daily Times reported Queenstown Rafting, which uses the section of river in question for tours, was also against the proposal ''at this stage'' because of concerns about safety and that jet-boats could ''denigrate'' non-powered boating trips.

Central Otago Whitewater acknowledged KJet had proposed safety procedures to ensure no kayakers were on the Smiths Falls rapid when the jet-boats proceeded, but was worried other jet-boaters would also want to run through the falls if the 5-knot speed limit and navigation bylaw were removed.

KJet director Shaun Kelly said he was still in discussions with affected parties and could not make any comment. A Queenstown Lakes District Council spokesperson said the council had requested more information from the applicant.

KJet also proposes to build a jetty near the bungy centre and included in the application are extensive safety plans which state there would be a ''spotter'' stationed above the river who would communicate with all KJet vessels ''regarding their location on the river and the location of other river users''.

The national kayaking body, Whitewater NZ, is also watching KJet's application.