ATCA Submission on Safety Bylaw Amendment - Removal of Powered Craft on Upper Clutha

Executive Summary:

 

The Albert Town Community Association seeks the following decision from the Queenstown Lakes District Council on the Navigational Safety Bylaw Amendment: 

 

1.        Accept 1.1 (a) (ii) (iii)  (b) of the proposed amendment. However, we continue to plead for year around removal of powered vessels from the Albert Town Bridge to Lake Wanaka. At the very least, Council should extend the jet boat free period to include the busy summer months of November and April, which includes Easter weekend.

 

2.        Refuse 1.1 (i) - Commercial motorised craft should be required to follow the same safety bylaws as private craft. If accepted, 1.1 (i) should be reviewed with the annual commercial jet boat Resource Consent evaluations and amended when permitted. If accepted, we would also ask the commercial jet boats to voluntarily avoid the Clutha River upstream of the  Albert Town bridge from December 1st - March 31st (or new dates). 

 

3.    Refuse 1.2 - A permanent speed uplifting downstream of the bridge arbitrarily splits Albert Town at the bridge and increases the dangers just downstream of the bridge. We ask that you leave current time restrictions in place and amend the bylaw to include a 5 knot speed limit at all times from the Albert Town Bridge to the most downstream resident, thus restricting Hamilton Turns and other dangerous and noisy manoeuvres inside a residential area. 

 

The Albert Town Community Association would like to commend council for their hard work on this issue. Council has listened to our community and this amendment is a step in the right direction. This amendment better aligns our Navigational Safety bylaw with the current District Plan as it applies to this section of the Clutha River. 

 

 4-44 “The Council considers there is an incompatibility between motorised craft and passive activities on the upstream stretch of the river. DOWNSTREAM OF ALBERT TOWN, the Clutha River is large enough and the pressures for use less intense, so that a wider variety of uses can be accommodated.”

 

However, the ATCA continues to plead for a powered vessel restriction throughout the year about the Albert Town bridge. At the very least, we should extend this power craft free period to include the busy summer months of November and April (Easter). 

 

Although there might be logistical limitations at this time, we encourage council to eventually remove 1.1 (i) A &B. We should not have two Safety Bylaws, one for commercial jet boats and one for private boats. Commercial resource consents must abide by Safety Bylaws, but in this case we are allowing safety exceptions for the resource consents by writing the resource consents into the bylaw. Hopefully this is only a temporary solution.This could be rectified at the annual review of the Resource Consents for both commercial jet boat operations. Once both resource consents have been amended, 1.1 (i) could be removed. In the mean time we would also ask the commercial jet boats to voluntarily avoid the Clutha River upstream of the bridge from December 1st to March 31st (or new dates)

 

See Current Resource Consents: Edgewater 21 (i)(ii)(iii) and Lakeland 24 (i)(ii)(iii)

“The conditions of this consent may be reviewed within 10 working days of each anniversary of the date of the consent, if, on reasonable grounds, the consent authority finds that: (i) there is or is likely to be an adverse environmental effect as a result of the exercise of this consent, which was unforeseen when the consent was granted (iii) there has been a change in circumstances such that conditions of the consent are no longer appropriate in terms of purpose…”

 

If the commercial jet boats insist on continuing to access the Clutha above the bridge during this powered vessel free time period (at least until council can review and amend their resource consents) we ask council to clarify and fully enforce the conditions of the resource consents which include the following: 

 

  1. All jet boat drivers shall maintain a centre line course at all times. From daily observations, this appears to be violated on every trip upstream from the bridge. If commercial jet boat drivers followed all restrictions of their current resource consents, there would be no entertainment value for clients above the bridge.
  2. Monitoring of the exercise of the consent has revealed that there is or is likely to be an adverse effect on the environment. See environmental damage and erosion from close turns just above the Albert Town Campground, also a violation of the centreline restriction above.  
  3. Number of trips per day/year. It is unclear if anyone is monitoring, recording or enforcing this restriction. 
  4. Noise restrictions. It is unclear if anyone is monitoring, recording or enforcing this restriction. 

 

Although the proposed amendment removes jet boats from above the bridge, the removal of all time and speed restrictions below the bridge is an accident waiting to happen. Allowing boats to travel at unrestricted speeds at all times of the day would allow a boat to travel at 100 kph in low light conditions through a residential area where passive river use is the norm (including a kid’s swimming area). Council is only 600 meters away from a solution to this issue that will last for years to come!

 

We ask council to implement a 5 knot speed restriction (as to land) from the Albert Town bridge to the most downstream Albert Town resident. Or put another way, “boaters are to make way through the residential area between the Albert Town Bridge and the Cardrona River confluence with the minimum possible noise and disturbance to the residents and other river users”. We also ask that time restrictions downstream of Albert Town remain. Current time restrictions (10am-6pm Summer and 10am-4pm Winter ) were originally implemented to ensure jet boats traveling at excessive speeds would not be on the Clutha River during low light, low visibility situations. Our daylight hours have not changed, and therefore neither should the time restrictions. 

 

It is important to note that paragraph 4-44 of our District Plan does not split Albert Town at the bridge, and neither can this bylaw. According to the Maritime Transport Act 1994, this is not allowed:

 

33M (2) (d) (ii) Navigational bylaws may not — be inconsistent with the Resource Management Act

 

The Council’s own Operative District Plan, which was overseen by our elected officials and drafted with considerable public consultations, discusses the uniqueness and value of this specific section of the Clutha River in detail. There are many guidelines in the Operative District Plan on how to manage this area, these guidelines also include noise pollution and environmental protection standards which are not covered by this bylaw. However, these standards are directly and negatively impacted by parts of proposed bylaw. And again, our ‘environment’ does include the safety of our people and aesthetics according to the RMA.

 

In conclusion, Council is to be commended for their hard work on a dangerous issue. The proposed amendment is an excellent example of forward planning based on the issues we face today. However, this proposed amendment needs further edits if it is to truly reflect the desires and safety of our entire community.

 

First, extend the motor-craft free time period to be year around, or at the very least include the months of November and April . Second, Council should quickly work to have one set of bylaws for both private and commercial craft. If not rectified and removed, this would set a horrible inconsistent and contestable precedent. Lastly, it is crucial we have some form of speed restrictions below the Albert Town bridge. Keep in mind this is only 600 meters of the 338km long Clutha! This could be remedied in several ways, but in general should be: “boaters are to make way through the residential area between the Albert Town Bridge and the Cardrona River confluence with the minimum possible noise and disturbance to the residents and other river users”.

 

Thanks again for your hard work.