Rescued kayakers reject bill for service

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Does anyone know any more about this incident? Do you think the kayakers should have to pay? To me it looks like a dangerous precedent for all sports if they do. At what point does Marty get to decide when kayakers can run rivers and not have them billed for the rescue?

Rescued kayakers reject bill for service
By SUE FEA - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 12/01/2010

Two kayakers plucked from the banks of the flooded Shotover River by helicopter after an empty kayak was spotted floating downstream have been billed $4000 for the rescue.

Queenstown Lakes District harbourmaster Marty Black said yesterday the Shotover River had been at its maximum in full flood, raging at about 260 cumecs on December 3, when an empty, upturned kayak was spotted floating past the Shotover Jet base.

Shotover Jet and all rafting operators had suspended operations for the day because the river was so high and dangerous.

"We put a helicopter up straight away ... we were sure we were looking for bodies because of the state of the river," Mr Black said.

The kayakers had been advised against going on the rapidly rising river, which was running at 130 cumecs when they put in and was close to 200 cumecs by the time the empty kayak was spotted, he said.

The two men, who were apparently experienced and living in the Queenstown area, should not have been up there, Mr Black said.

They had now been invoiced for almost two hours of helicopter flying and council staff time, totalling $4000, and were contesting the bill, claiming they didn't need rescuing, he said.

"Why should the community pay when it's a situation of their own making? It was not an option for us not to go – we must go (and search)," he said.

Mr Black said the pair had put in at MacLeod's Bluff and were retrieved from opposite sides of the river about 1km downstream. They had been "very pleased" to see the helicopter. The man from the upturned kayak had apparently got into difficulty when he hurt his finger, then lost his kayak, Mr Black said.

Although the men claimed conditions were fine further upstream, Mr Black said they should not have been kayaking on a rising river.

A friend driving the group's van had stopped off at a Skippers' resident's home to ask for help and the resident had raised the alarm.

Two weeks after this incident an empty jetboat was sighted floating below the Kawarau bungy bridge and bungy staff alerted Mr Black, who put a helicopter up immediately to search for any missing boaties.

"That guy had been fishing upstream and got into some quicksand – the boat took off before he could get out," Mr Black said.

The $55,000 to $60,000 boat had travelled through several rapids and miraculously escaped damage.

That boat owner was invoiced for about $1600, but had paid up happily.

ngaio's picture

A guy from Southland Times rang me to find out who the two kayakers were so he could get their side of the story. If you want to contact him with the facts his name is Shane and phone number is 0272840510.

LT's picture

Apparently John Key does not approve..