A section of the Kaituna River could be closed after the death of two kayakers - but the family of one say it would be an "unwanted outcome" of her death.

An inquest into the death of Louise Jull was held in Rotorua today before coroner Dr Wallace Bain and a packed public gallery including some of the world's best kayakers.

Habourmaster Peter Buell told the court he was considering prohibiting the use of watercraft, including kayaks, on the upper section of the river referred to as 'three gorges' as a result of Ms Jull's death in March, and that of Matthew Kyle Stidham in 2007.

Ms Jull, 26, died after her spraydeck snagged on a log while kayaking a section of the river known as Gnarly Gorge with two others. She was found the following morning after a search of the area.


Issues around an individual's choice to take part in risky adventure activities versus the regulators' requirements to make it safe were heard.

There was also focus on the logs in the river, some of which were believed to be from logging in the area and whether the Bay of Plenty Regional Council could lower river levels regularly to allow kayakers to remove logs.

Mr Buell said he was not convinced there was a safe way to take logs from the river.

"Given that two experienced kayakers with local knowledge have drowned in the upper section of the river, I have doubts that it is safe for anyone to use the section of the river whether on kayaks or any other kind of craft.

"My mandate is no one dying. I lose sleep over this."

An inquiry into the 2007 death recommended signage be put up warning of the dangers but that was not carried out.

Maritime New Zealand specialist Ian Howden said while Ms Jull - a physical education teacher at Western Heights High School who had represented New Zealand internationally in the sport - was aware of the risks, signage would have served as a reminder to regular users.

Ms Jull's father Adrian told the court his daughter was aware of the hazards presented by logs and had in the past successfully negotiated the section.

He asked the coroner to consider a range of recommendations around safety and access to the river and encouraged exploring the removal of logs from the river.

He said stopping kayaks using the area would be an "unwanted outcome" of her death.

Ms Jull's sister Isobelle said Ms Jull "didn't kayak because of the chance of something happening, she kayaked because it was what living and life meant to her".

"If a legacy of this tragic accident is that lessons can be learned and better outcomes occur for other paddlers then that too is a comfort to our memory of Louise."

Dr Bain adjourned the inquest to give neighbouring landowners and those carrying out logging the chance to respond.