Incidents show up high water danger

Three incidents on the upper Clutha River in the past three days which have prompted a warning to water users to ''stay off'' the waterways while they are at high flows.

Around noon yesterday an alarm was raised that a 53-year-old Luggate woman and her 8-year-old grandson, who had entered the Hawea River below the Camp Hill Bridge on a blow-up service tender, had not arrived at their pre-arranged destination downstream. It was later discovered their oar was damaged so they left the river early, but could not contact with the person waiting for them.

The decision to negotiate the river at such a high flow was a ''bad call'', police search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Constable Mike Johnston said.

''She totally underestimated the risks that the river presented,'' he said.

''From our point of view, it was a really risky situation to take an 8-year-old into.''

Queenstown Lakes district harbourmaster Marty Black agreed it was ''probably not the wisest of calls'' when the river was flowing at 126.8cumecs, but acknowledged the woman was highly experienced with outdoor activities and on local rivers, which is why she immediately left the water when the oar broke.

''She was very much aware of the dangers of entrapments in trees,'' Mr Black said.

On Saturday evening two kayakers on the Clutha River near Wanaka required help to get to shore after their craft overturned, and on Sunday, a group of young people floating down the Clutha near Albert Town also had to be helped to shore after getting into difficulty. Flows of up to 550cumecs have been reported in the Clutha River in the past few days.

The message to take from the three incidents was simple, Mr Black said.

''The rivers at the moment are running high, stay off ... the warnings are there, it's dangerous stuff.''

Deputy harbour master Dave Black said water safety in Queenstown has improved over the past two weeks with most boat users carrying observers and water users wearing life jackets.

Mr Black said the lake over the weekend was busy as expected at this time of year and they had no incidents to cause concern.

However, on Saturday night a police search was launched after three paddleboarders were reported missing near Glenorchy. A group of five had launched from Glenorchy to go to Kinloch when three were separated by the windy conditions and got left behind.

Upon making it to Kinloch, two of the paddleboarders raised the alarm for a search by police and the coastguard. The three missing boarders were found at the Glenorchy hotel before midnight.

Mr Black said this highlighted the importance of wearing life jackets, even when relatively close to shore.

A pair of inflatable paddleboards were reported stolen on Saturday at 8.30pm, after two young men failed to return the items to the rental shop on the lakefront. A search of Lake Wakatipu made the harbourmaster's office confident they were not in the water, Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, said yesterday.

Police were told the paddleboards had been recovered on Sunday at noon. The customers had forgotten to return them, Snr Const Blackford said.

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