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Shotover Jet’s Golden Anniversary

Guests at today’s 50th anniversary of Queenstown’s Shotover Jet could be forgiven for thinking they’d stepped back in time when the company’s very first Hamilton jet took to the water. 

An early Hamilton jet, similar to the boats used by the pioneering Melhop brothers, Harold and Alan, founders of Shotover Jet Services in 1965, was accompanied by the very first alloy ‘Big Red’ fully restored to its original 1976 glory. 

 The ‘Big Red’ jet boats, with their unique shape have become a tourism icon – an image synonymous with adventure tourism and Queenstown.  The two early boats were accompanied by the latest of the twin-engine generation boats.

 The Ngāi Tahu Tourism-owned Shotover Jet has come a long way since those first boats sped passengers in the Shotover River canyon. Today, it is the first jetboat operator in the world to have reached the milestone of 50 years of continuous operation, with over 3 million passengers carried so far.

 Today’s official celebrations with VIPS and members of the Queenstown community paid tribute to past-owners and staff, and the role Shotover Jet has played in consolidating New Zealand’s place on the global tourism map.

 Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Bill English, Ngāi Tahu iwi representative, Tā Tipene O’Regan, Mayor of Queenstown, Vanessa van Uden, Ngāi Tahu Tourism Board Chair Sarah Smith and Ngāi Tahu Tourism Chief Executive Quinton Hall were among special guests gathered at the company’s base. Representatives of previous family owners – the Melhops, Herm and Mary Palmer, Trevor and Heather Gamble and Jim and Karen Boult also attended the celebrations.

 Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Bill English congratulated the company on its significant achievements; and Tā Tipene O’Regan spoke of the resurgence of Māori business, the part tourism can play in telling iwi stories and the value that a cultural element can add to the visitor experience. (pre-empting)

  Ngāi Tahu Tourism Chief Executive Quinton Hall  noted the importance of Queenstown as a key tourism hub in New Zealand.

  “It’s the destination of choice for many international visitors; and just as the Melhops, the Palmers, the Gambles and the Boults all had faith in their product and the place of jetboating in the tourism landscape, so we too have faith in its exciting future.

  “Shotover Jet may have already carried over 3-million passengers - 140,000 of those in the last year alone - but we don’t intend resting on our laurels. The very grandeur of this place combined with the iconic status of the Big Red boats, inspires us to aim even higher.

  “As we look ahead to capitalising on future growth opportunities and meeting changing consumer expectations, we want to be as nimble and as fast-moving as our boats -  and I have great faith that the Shotover Jet team will make that happen,” he said.

 To mark the company’s golden anniversary, a pounamu mauri stone found in Scott Basin, near the Dart River in the Glenorchy area and named Te Awa Whakatipu, was blessed and placed on a base carved by James York (Ngāi Tahu) at the Shotover Jet headquarters.

 The annual locals’ day follows tomorrow - Saturday 14 - and funds raised this year will be donated to the Bruce Grant Youth Trust which was established after the death of inspiring Queenstown Olympic skier, mountain climber and extreme adventurer, Bruce Grant in 1995, to inspire young locals to achieve their goals and aspirations.

 A children’s treasure hunt on the Shotover beach will see one lucky winner walk away with an ounce of gold; and past and present Shotover staff and invited guests celebrate together tomorrow night at the Skyline Restaurant.

 For more information please contact:

Phil Tumataroa

Group Communications Manager

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

021 248 2242