AJ Hackett


New Zealand Order of Merit for services to adventure tourism and helping create a new visitor demographic

Bungy pioneer AJ Hackett is "pretty stoked" to be honoured today for helping New Zealand become the world's adventure sport capital.

Hackett, 59, developed the modernised elastic bungy cord, founded commercial bungy jumping and, over the last three decades, has turned the extreme sport craze into a global phenomenon.

The Pukekohe-born entrepreneur introduced bungy to the world in 1987 by illegally leaping from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Speaking from France yesterday, Hackett said he recently visited the Eiffel Tower and thought, "Gee, it's actually quite high!"

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"I stood there and thought I was actually a bit mad to jump off of that. I'm not sure I'd do that one again," he said.

Eighteen months after the spectacular stunt, the adrenalin junkie opened the world's first full-time commercial bungy site at the Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown, with Henry van Asch.

Hackett is "stoked" to be honoured by the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to adventure tourism and helping create a new visitor demographic.

"We've received a lot of awards over the years but this is a really good one," said Hackett, who lives in Christchurch.

"New Zealand is lucky that we've always had so many clever, innovative people who are not afraid to give things a crack. But bungy really gave things a kick in the guts, showing that anything is possible - to just go for it, think laterally, and keep it safe. Bungy probably couldn't have come from many other places in the world.

"We've always carried that philosophy. I don't have a lot of time for the law ... I like the thought of doing it and asking for forgiveness later."

Hackett pioneered stringent national safety standards for the sport, which have been used as a base for regulating the industry across the world.

Over the past 20 years, he has been dedicated to growing the AJ Hackett brand overseas and exporting bungy to Australia, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, China, France, the United States, Mexico, Europe, Russia and Singapore.

He is widely-known for his bungy stunts that earned him Guinness World Records, including jumping from the world's then highest suspension bridge, the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado and the 233m Macau Tower in China.

His NZOM citation also recognises his philanthropy and support of Kiwi snow sport athletes and young entrepreneurs.

Hackett's 2006 autobiography Jump Start told how he was addicted to the bungy thrill right from his first experimental jump off Auckland's Greenhithe Bridge in November 1986.

"I'd never felt anything like this... bouncing up and down and looping about on this fantastic rubber cord - it's fair to say I was sold on the idea right from the outset."