Tourism heavyweight Trojan buys 90% of KJet

Despite Trojan Holdings coming on board, Shaun Kelly — pictured at the helm of a KJet boat —...
Despite Trojan Holdings coming on board, Shaun Kelly — pictured at the helm of a KJet boat — still retains 10% of KJet and remains general manager. Photo: ODT files
A heavyweight Queenstown tourism player will helm the resort’s original jetboat company.

The Davies family’s Trojan Holdings — which owns skifield operator NZSki and a slice of AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand — has bought 90% of KJet for an undisclosed sum.

Established in 1958 and billed as the world’s first commercial jetboat operator, KJet offers thrill rides on the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers from its Queenstown town pier base.

According to its website, its eight boats can take up to 140 people at one time — the highest capacity of any jetboat company in New Zealand.

Since 2011, the company had been owned 50-50 by local Shaun Kelly and Skeggs Group, which owns tourism player Southern Discoveries.

Mr Kelly — who originally bought into KJet in 1987 when the company had only one boat — has retained a 10% shareholding and will be general manager of the new Trojan subsidiary.

All 24 staff, including nine permanent drivers, were retained.

The purchase, effective from July 1, also included the Time Tripper underwater attraction under the town pier.

Ngāi Tahu Tourism, which owns Queenstown’s Shotover Jet, last year tried to buy KJet, its main rival.

The Commerce Commission, which had to approve the merger, was concerned it would limit competition, raising the spectre of increased prices and lessening of service.

The commission still had not made its decision when Ngāi Tahu Tourism, just before Christmas, withdrew its application.

Trojan Holdings director Mike Davies said he was thrilled to welcome KJet into the Trojan family.

"This partnership brings together two thriving, locally owned family businesses that complement each other seamlessly.

"Shaun’s continued involvement as a shareholder and GM will be invaluable as we move forward."

Mr Kelly — a former NZ jetboat racing champ who placed fifth in the world championship in 2000 — said joining forces with Trojan was "a tremendous opportunity for KJet".

"Their experience and resources will enable us to elevate our operation.

"I’m excited to remain part of this journey and look forward to what we can achieve together."

A Trojan media release said its "extensive resources", which KJet could now access, included "the development of new and exciting adventure tourism products".

KJet will continue to operate from its Queenstown headquarters while integrating more closely with Trojan’s network, which is also based in central Queenstown.