New compulsory licence for jet boat drivers

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Drivers enjoying the thrill of the Huka Jet on the Waikato River. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira
Drivers enjoying the thrill of the Huka Jet on the Waikato River. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira

A new compulsory driver licence is being introduced for commercial jet boat drivers to reduce risks involved in the iconic outdoor adventure activity.

The new rule comes into effect on August 2 and replaces the existing requirement for jet boat drivers to have at least 50 hours experience before taking commercial passengers.

While the "inherent risks of jet boating" are part of the thrill, these changes will give passengers and the public added assurance that the risks are being managed appropriately, Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said today.

"These rule changes, including the jet boat driver licence and competency checks, essentially formalise the sound practices that are already in place in the industry.

"Given the profile of tourism, and its importance to New Zealand's economy, there is an expectation that safety is a top priority for operators."

The New Zealand jet boating industry is made up of 42 operators carrying over 370,000 passengers a year.

There have been two fatalities in the commercial jet boating sector since 1999.

The Tourism Industry Association (TIA) said the mandatory driver licence will further strengthen the country's world class adventure tourism sector.

The Government's decision supports the work being done by TIA, the industry and other organisations to ensure tourism operators run a safe operation, said recently appointed chief executive Martin Snedden.

Snedden said the TIA is working closely with operators across the wider adventure tourism sector to strengthen safety systems and management.

"It's critical that 'adventure' remains in adventure tourism, but the industry has a responsibility to ensure that these experiences are being delivered within a strong safety framework."

The rule also makes driver log books mandatory, and includes design and construction changes, such as emergency exits and footrests, that provide greater passenger protection.

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