By­law change at odds with district plan

Otago Daily Times - - REGIONS - KERRIE WATERWORTH kerrie.waterworth@odt.co.nz

A HEAR­ING into a pro­posed change to a nav­i­ga­tional by­law al­low­ing boats to travel at a higher speed on the Clutha River be­tween the Lake Wanaka out­let and the first rapid has heard mo­torised craft will be pro­hib­ited on the river if the Queen­stown Lakes District coun­cil adopts the cur­rent pro­posed district plan.

On the first day of the coun­cil’s nav­i­ga­tion safety by­law 2017 hear­ing in Wanaka yes­ter­day, sub­mit­ter Ian Greaves said he had more than 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in plan­ning, and his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the pro­posed district plan ru­ral chap­ter and clause 21.5.44 deal­ing with recre­ational and boat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on the sur­face of lakes and rivers was that the use of mo­torised craft on the Clutha River would be pro­hib­ited ex­cept for cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties such as emer­gency search and res­cue and a fi­nite num­ber of jet boat races.

Coun­cil le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives at­tend­ing the hear­ing agreed Mr Greaves had raised an in­ter­est­ing point but that it would de­pend on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the word­ing.

The hear­ing fol­lowed a coun­cil re­view of cur­rent by­laws, in­clud­ing the nav­i­ga­tional safety by­law 2014.

Coun­cil voted to con­sult the pub­lic on the pro­posed changes and when sub­mis­sions closed at the end of last month 285 op­pos­ing the changes and 12 in sup­port had been re­ceived.

About 20 sub­mit­ters at­tended the hear­ing, and all but one op­posed the pro­posed amend­ment to al­low boats to travel over 5 knots be­tween the out­let and the Al­bert Town bridge dur­ing day­light hours.

Un­der the ex­ist­ing by­law boats are limited to 5 knots on that stretch of wa­ter at all times.

Nearly all of the sub­mit­ters called for a to­tal ban of jet boats and jet skis on that sec­tion of river, de­scrib­ing the in­creas­ing num­ber of pas­sive recre­ational users of the river and the num­ber of jet boats and jet ski users as ‘‘an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen’’.

Many re­ferred to the fa­tal ac­ci­dent be­tween two boats on the blue lake at St Bathans on Box­ing Day two years ago as a warn­ing it could hap­pen on the Clutha, if the amend­ment was passed.

Sub­mit­ter David El­lis said his fam­ily owned 4ha and 300m of river frontage and over the past 60 years four gen­er­a­tions had en­joyed hol­i­day­ing there.

He said in the past 10 years there had been a huge in­crease in the num­ber of floaters, jet boats and jet skiers us­ing the river.

‘‘What we are wor­ried about is the health and safety is­sue of so many in the wa­ter and the inat­ten­tive­ness of some of those in boats.’’

He said ‘‘two weeks ago it wasn’t even hol­i­days or sum­mer, yet the river was packed with tourists float­ing down and three jet skis rid­ers were go­ing from side to side and egging each other on’’.

Mr El­lis and his wife Jane drove down from Christchurch yes­ter­day morn­ing to speak at the hear­ing be­cause they ‘‘felt so strongly’’ about the dan­gers to swim­mers if the amend­ment was passed.

Mrs El­lis said banning mo­torised boats on that sec­tion of the Clutha River would open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for raft­ing com­pa­nies and ‘‘cre­ate a point of dif­fer­ence from Queen­stown’’ which is fa­mous for its jet boat­ing.

Grebes project di­rec­tor John Darby told the panel he was a qual­i­fied kayak­ing in­struc­tor for many years and had had the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing con­fronted by a power boat when tak­ing a party of learn­ers down a grade one rapid.

‘‘The­o­ret­i­cally both par­ties should know how to avoid each other but . . . the re­al­ity is that when such events take place, panic inevitably takes place with the re­sult that the kayak­ing party tends to be­come split and scat­tered across a wide stretch of the rapid.’’

He said the head of the Clutha River was a safe and ex­cel­lent teach­ing venue for in­struct­ing kayak­ers and for those en­joy­ing the more pas­sive river­based recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, and it would be sad if this el­e­ment of safety were to be com­pro­mised by fast­mov­ing craft.

Marie Lewis is the owner­op­er­a­tor of a bed and break­fast on the Clutha River and said her guests al­ways com­mented on the peace and tran­quil­ity of the river ‘‘which is a rare com­mod­ity and dis­ap­pear­ing fast’’.

An­glers from around the world came to stay at her bed and break­fast to fish the Clutha and if the amend­ment was passed the rep­u­ta­tion of the river would be ru­ined, she said.

The hear­ing re­sumes to­day in Queen­stown.

A rec­om­men­da­tion is ex­pected to be pre­sented to a full coun­cil meet­ing on De­cem­ber 14.

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