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Queenstown's Harbourmaster says people who need rescuing because of "their own stupidity'' should have to foot the bill.
His comments followed the rescue of two men who got caught in rapids after heading out on the Kawarau River on an inflatable mattress last night.
Harbourmaster Marty Black said he refused to send someone out on a jetski when the call came in about 9.30pm, saying it was too dangerous.
A helicopter and search and rescue crew were deployed instead, rescuing the pair about 11pm.
Mr Black said the two men, one from Queenstown and one from Dunedin, put not only themselves but also their rescuers at risk.
"It's an area just below Dog Leg Rapids, you don't want to be playing around there in the dark.''
Mr Black said he was "dead against'' the public having to foot the cost of rescue operations when those needing rescue were at fault.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't go and rescue them, but they need to take responsibility for their actions.''
He said the cost of getting a helicopter up for a search and rescue mission was around $2000 per hour.
The rescue came just hours after an Indian tourist suffered a medical event on a KJet boat on Lake Wakatipu about 5pm, and later died.
Mr Black said the incident was "quite a tragedy'', and said KJet staff did "extremely well'' under the circumstances.
In a third incident, Mr Black said he was contacted about a yacht coming off its moorings at Frankton Arm about midnight.
The yacht was recovered this morning, he said.