It's 3pm and the new owner of Taupō Bungy is celebrating with locals. The only thing is, Henry van Asch has been up since 4am, clearing up after one of his children flooded the bathroom.

"I've got four teenagers. The oldest has got Down Syndrome and life is like Forrest Gump's mystery box of chocolates. You don't know what's going to come out next," says Henry, who thinks about 1000 litres from his 5000 litre water tank was on the bathroom floor that morning.

His very real connection with teenagers started in 2006, when the Queenstown bungy operation turned 18. At that point AJ Hackett Bungy NZ decided to acknowledge the relationship with local Queenstown kids born in 1988, the year bungy began. Since that time, AJ Hackett has offered free bungy jumps to Queenstown's Wakatipu High School year 13 students as an exciting challenge to build confidence as they head into a new stage in their lives. The company extended the programme to Auckland, and is now introducing it into its newest community, Taupō after gaining Commerce Commission approval in October to purchase Taupō Bungy.

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Henry says most people are scared about doing a bungy jump and completing a jump is a big personal challenge.

"They push themselves through their limits. Coming out of it is a big boost to their self-esteem. They think 'I can do anything!' It's a good fit for 18-year-olds," says Henry.

Taupō-nui-a-Tia College school leaver Leila Yardley, 17, received a voucher to do a free bungy with her graduation certificate. She had no inkling about the gift, and said she was excited and a little bit nervous about doing the bungy.

Taupo-nui-a-Tia school leaver Leila Yardley (centre) with her mother Kim Yardley (left) and AJ Hackett Bungy NZ owner Henry van Asch (right). Photo / Rachel Canning
Taupo-nui-a-Tia school leaver Leila Yardley (centre) with her mother Kim Yardley (left) and AJ Hackett Bungy NZ owner Henry van Asch (right). Photo / Rachel Canning

"You've just got to say yes to every opportunity that comes to you," said Leila, ahead of jumping. She was supported by her mum Kim Yardley, brother Asher Yardley, 13, and partner Chris Rider, 18.

Leila already has her Level 2 hospitality and barista certificates and works the breakfast shift at Wairakei Resort. She is saving money to buy a house bus to go touring around New Zealand and is thinking about applying to Police College.

Her partner Chris says Leila was definitely out of her comfort zone doing a bungy, and said Leila likes planned adventures.

"More like going into the jungle and looking for stuff or going longboarding. Not jumping off stuff."

The Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender managed to catch up with Leila the next day, who said her bungy jump was really fun, but scary as well. Making it extra scary, Leila and Henry jumped off backwards.


"I didn't expect how long the jump was. I had my hands over my eyes. Henry was laughing."

Henry says persistence is behind AJ Hackett Bungy NZ bringing Taupō into the stable, and says his Queenstown staff have commented how seamlessly Taupō Bungy has been absorbed into their operation.

Henry and AJ split their operation in 1997, with Henry taking the New Zealand business and AJ going global with bungy and adrenalin adventures.

"We catch up a couple of times each year. We have a great relationship. AJ does not have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), the reason we get on so well," said Henry.