Anglers irate over boat speed move

The Queenstown Lakes District Council came under fire at a hearing in Wanaka yesterday over changes it is proposing to its navigation safety bylaw.

One contentious change would ''uplift'' speed restrictions on jet-boats using the Clutha River from a point 2km downstream of the outlet of Lake Wanaka to the Red Bridge, about 11km downstream.

At present, jet-boats are restricted to 5 knots on this stretch of river from 6pm.

The council proposes to change the time, during daylight saving, to 10pm.

Harbour master Marty Black was asked on two occasions during the hearing to explain where the idea for the change came from.

He replied it was a result of ''issues'' to do with access for anglers.

Hearing committee chairman deputy mayor Lyal Cocks told the Otago Daily Times the change was the result of feedback to council staff over three or four years.

However, Otago Fish and Game Council environmental officer Peter Wilson told the hearing the council was unaware of any pressure from anglers for the speed limit to be done away with.

''We've had no pressure from any angler, ever, for speed restrictions to be lifted,'' he said.

He took issue with the council over how it prepared the draft bylaw, suggesting the proposed change was ''based more on anecdote''.

''It is not clear how the clause came about''.

Schedule 3, paragraph 10 (b) of the proposed bylaw states: ''The 5 knot limit is uplifted from the yellow poles at the old county boundary downstream to the Red Bridge at Luggate during the following hours: 10am to 4pm during the months of New Zealand standard time and 10am to 10pm during the months of daylight saving.''

Mr Wilson said Fish and Game was ''pretty disappointed'' it had not been consulted prior to the bylaw being put out for public submissions and considered that to be a ''major process deficiency''.

Mr Wilson said Fish and Game had not seen any council documentation to show where the idea for the change came from, and he considered the council had ''not followed a robust enough process''.

Fish and Game was ''strongly opposed'' to the change to the speed limit along a stretch of the river with a good reputation for fly fishing, and he described the proposed change as a ''glaring error''.

Rick Boyd, representing the Upper Clutha Angling Club and others, also raised concerns about the process and said the club had also not seen documentation to show where the idea to uplift the speed limit came from.

''We don't see the necessity, we don't see the evidence, we don't know why we were not consulted,'' he said.

He spent many hours on the river and was concerned about the effect of the proposed change on other river users.

The order paper for the hearing noted a total of 44 written public submissions were made to the bylaw with 24 in favour, nine opposed and nine partly supporting.

Of the 24 in favour, 14 raised ''serious concerns'' about the proposed lifting of the speed restriction.

The hearing continues in Queenstown tomorrow. mark.price@odt.co.nz