Community group opposes jet-boating bylaw change

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Changes to bylaws designed to restrict powered vessels on the Clutha River by Albert Town bridge have also opened up access, meaning some residents could face jet-boat noise day and night, a community group has warned.
Last month, the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) amended the district’s navigation safety bylaw to ban powered vessels from using the river between the Outlet Camping Ground and Albert Town bridge between December 1 and April 30 annually.
However, at the same time speed and time restrictions were lifted for all powered vessels in the section of the river downstream of Albert Town Bridge to the Red Bridge at Luggate.
Albert Town Community Association chairman Jim Cowie welcomed restrictions for powered vessels near the Albert Town swimming hole as good news.
But residents living downstream of Albert Town Bridge could have to ‘‘put up with more jet-boat noise than ever and at all hours of the day and night’’.
There would be ‘‘continued opposition’’ to this change, Mr Cowie said.
Committee member Nathan Weathington asked why commercial operators were exempt and suggested speed restrictions should be in place until past the last residence downstream of the Albert Town bridge.
‘‘The Clutha River is 340km long. We are talking about another 500-600 metres. It is not that far.
‘‘If there was a speed limit there, like 5 knots, then everybody would be fine.’’
Mr Weathington was not anti­business, saying operators could still be effective by restricting their boats’ speeds until they got past the last house.
‘‘The thrill is all downstream, so they could get in at the boat ramp, putter for 20 seconds, turn it loose, and then everybody is happy.’’
Queenstown Lakes District Council acting regulatory manager Antony Hall said allowing powered craft to operate between Albert Town Bridge and the Red Bridge without speed restrictions or time limits was seen as a ‘‘compromise with boaties, many of whom were concerned they were losing their right to access the river’’.
There were no plans to add any restrictions for commercial operators, who could still operate both above and below Albert Town Bridge.
‘‘Existing commercial operators are allowed to operate within the conditions of their resource consent. This is not likely to change,’’ Mr Hall said.
There had been 28 complaints involving powered vessels since June 2014 on that stretch of the river, mainly relating to ‘‘irresponsible behaviour on the river, i.e. speeding or no life jackets’’.
‘‘Unfortunately we do not have stats on near misses or the number of swimmers/floaters using the area,’’ he said.
‘‘This is something we identified through the bylaw review and will be working to improve over the next 12 months.’’