Submission on a Resource Consent Application to operate a jetboat through Smith's Falls

Submission prepared by Maree Baker opposing Kawarau Jet Services Holdings Ltd's application to operate a tourist jetboat service through Smith Falls on the Dogleg section of the Kawarau.

Resource Management Act 1991 Submission on a Resource Consent Application

File No RM 000539

To: Queenstown Lakes District Council
C/o CivicCorp
Private Bag 50077

Fax (03) 442 4778

Attention: Resource Consents Administrator

From: New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association (hereinafter NZRCA)
C/o Maree Baker
Conservation Officer
464 Somme Parade

Applicant's name: Kawarau Jet Services Holdings Ltd

Consent No.: 000539

Details of Applications: To extend the operation and length of commercial jet boat trips to allow operations further down the Kawarua River by a distance of 1500 metres, particularly between the confluence of the Arrow River and the Kawarua Bungy Bridge facility

Location of Application: Kawarau River from confluence of Arrow River to the bungy bridge facility.

The NZRCA opposes the application 000539


  1. Introduction

    1. The New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association (hereinafter NZRCA) is the national representative organisation of canoe clubs throughout New Zealand. The NZRCA is an incorporated society and is affiliated to the New Zealand Canoe Federation which in turn is affiliated to the International Canoe Federation.
    2. Currently there are approximately 20 member clubs with a membership of approximately 800. The total number of canoeists in New Zealand greatly exceeds the number of members of the NZRCA and the numbers are continuing to increase. Outdoor recreation programs at polytechnics along with many high schools and outdoor education centres now all include canoeing in the syllabus.
    3. The NZRCA is committed to long-term sustainable management of New Zealand's water resources. The association is a nationally recognised body that has continued to be actively and constructively involved in resource management processes.
    4. The NZRCA's member club, Otago Canoe and Kayak Club participated in the hearing for the National Water Conservation Order over the Kawarau river and its tributaries.
    5. All members of the executive of the NZRCA are volunteers.
  2. Submission - this application should be declined because:
    1. It will create an unacceptable risk to the safety of other river users, particularly recreational kayakers.
    2. It will have an adverse effect, that cannot be mitigated, on the outstanding wild and scenic and recreational amenity of the Kawarau Gorge.
    3. It will have an adverse effect on the enjoyment of the river, and its surroundings, for recreational river users such as kayakers.
  3. The reasons for my submission are:
    1. The proposed activity will create unacceptable risks to the safety of other river users, particularly kayakers. Kayakers' safety, both while in their kayak and while swimming (having accidentally fallen out) will be severely compromised by the presence of jet boats on this section of river.
      1. Kayaking involves small craft, close to the surface of the water, moving at relatively slow speed. As a consequence the line of vision to and from the kayaker is limited. The kayaker may not be able to see the jet boat, particularly if the kayaker is situated in the midst of the Smith's Falls rapid. Likewise at times the jet boat will not be able to see the kayaker in their kayak, or while swimming, due to the water features and the small size of the kayak and its occupant.
      2. When in the main flow of the river, the kayaker's manoeuvrability, in comparison to a jet boat, is limited. Dependent on the experience of the kayaker, the proximity of a jet boat on a high volume river such as the Kawarau may create enough of a disturbance and/or distraction to capsize the kayaker.
      3. This section of the river is very popular amongst beginner-intermediate paddles that have not yet developed strong kayaking skills. Because of their experience, kayakers of this level often accidentally capsize and swim through rapids such as Smith's Falls. Due to the force of the river retrieving the swimmer can take some time. It would be very unsafe to have a jet boat on the same stretch of river where kayakers frequently swim.
      4. Other more skilled paddlers use the features of the rapids to play, by surfing waves and holes and utilising eddy lines. In doing so the kayaker is often stationary in relation to the river flow, and completely focused. This situation again creates an unacceptable safety risk, as due to the noise of the water, line of vision and focus of attention the kayaker may not see or hear an approaching jet boat.
    2. The kayaking community is diverse and mobile. Many kayakers belong to clubs, while many others kayak independent of any organised group. It will therefore not be possible to inform kayakers of the timing of jet boat trips before arrival at the put-in.
    3. The use of lights has not been trialed to any significant degree in New Zealand for this purpose and therefore is not a proven technique for ensuring safety. There is no guarantee that all kayakers will either see the signage or light, or understand what it means. These tools will therefore not adequately protect the safety of other river users.
      1. Furthermore there is not enough detail provided about the proposed signage and lighting to assess its effectiveness. The exact location, size and description of the signage and lights should be provided as part of the application in order that their effectiveness can be assessed.
      2. Even if such methods were appropriate, there would be no way for kayakers or other groups to communicate in reciprocation to the approaching jet boat that there are swimmers or other kayakers in the path of the jet boat, before it commences its descent or assent of the rapid.
    4. The Kawarau River is the subject of a National Water Conservation Order. It is recognised as outstanding, on a national scale, in terms of the following:
      1. Wild and scenic characteristics.
      2. Natural characteristics
      3. Scientific values
      4. Recreational purposes, in particular rafting, jetboating and kayaking.

        The application would have an unacceptable adverse effect on the above nationally outstanding characteristics, particularly i), ii) and iv).

    5. The Kawarau River, including the "Dogleg" section the subject of this application, is ranked as one of New Zealand's most nationally significant white water rivers for recreational kayakers. It is an extremely popular river, not only among local kayakers, but also nationally. Kayakers from all over New Zealand frequently kayak on this section of river.
    6. The Kawarau River is one of very few, high volume, grade 3 to 4 rivers in New Zealand. It provides an excellent white water, wild and scenic experience that is unmatched in New Zealand.
    7. In the River Use survey conducted by the NZRCA in 1991 this section of river ranked 6th nationally in importance. It ranked 5th in terms of the geographic diversity of users, which implies that people from all over New Zealand travel to kayak the Kawarau.
    8. The "Dogleg" section of the Kawarau one of New Zealand's premier white water river runs. The Smiths Falls rapid is the first significant rapid on this section. The proposal is likely to have an adverse effect on river users in terms of safety, quality of experience and detraction from wild and scenic characteristics.
    9. The Kawarau River, in its present state, is an asset for the Otago Region, as it brings people to the region to enjoy the recreational opportunities it currently provides.
    10. The noise, signage, lights and general disturbance associated with the proposed activity will create unacceptable adverse effect on the features recognised in the National Water Conservation Order as nationally outstanding and significant.
    11. By proposing to place signage and lights in visually prominent positions, presumably both up and downstream of Smiths Falls, the nationally outstanding wild and scenic characteristics of this section of the gorge will be adversely effected.
    12. To the best of my knowledge no assessment of the noise effects of the proposal has been undertaken. Given the narrow gorge and steep walls, it is expected that the noise of the jet boat will be significant, and will seriously detract from the amenity of the gorge, and its wild and scenic values.
    13. The proposal does not promote the purpose of the Resource Management Act 1991.
    14. The proposal is contrary to section 6 (a), (b) and (d) of the Act:

      "Matters of National Importance - In achieving the purpose of this Act all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall recognise and provide for the following matters of national importance:

      (a) The preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area), wetlands and lakes and rivers and their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.

      (b) The protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development:

      (d) The maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along the coastal marine area, lakes and rivers"

    15. The proposal is contrary to section 7 (c) and (f):

      "Other matters- In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use development and protection of natural and physical resources shall have particular regard to:

      (c) The maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:

      (f) Maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment."

    16. The proposal is contrary to section 104(g) of the Act, in that regard must be given to the National Water Conservation Order.
    17. At the time of filing this submission no member of the NZRCA executive has been consulted by the applicant.
  4. My submission would be met by the Queenstown Lakes District Council making the following decision:
    1. Decline the application in its entirety.
  5. I do wish to be heard in support of my submission
  6. If others present similar submission I would be prepared to present a joint submission, if I consider it appropriate.

Maree Baker
Conservation Officer
New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association