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Herman Palmer Shotover Jet

Over 3 Million Thrilled People Since 1965


Shotover Jet Services opened by the Melhop brothers operating from the beach at Arthurs Point with Herm Palmer as driver / mechanic and a Hamilton Jet 30 boat.


Sold to Herm and May Palmer who operated for the next four years. Carrying between 3200-3400 passengers per annum.  Herm and May brought a soon to be well known caravan down to the beach and upgraded from the Jet 30 to a Jet 41 Hamilton Jet boat.

Historic I3


  • Trevor Gamble bought the company assets and commenced operations as ‘Shotover Jet Gorge’
  • Carried 6500 passengers in the first year of operation


  • Transitioned from a sightseeing adventure to its current ‘thrill-based’ experience.
  • Boats now carried 9 passengers with tiered seating concept introduced


  • New fleet of Jet Boats ‘Shotover Jet Mark II’ that carried 11 passengers built and introduced into service

Historic II2


  • Carried 100 thousandth passenger


  • Company bought by Queenstown’s Armada Holdings
  • Converted Jet Boat fleet to new motors and LPG fuel
  • Carried 500 thousandth passenger


  • Sole concession to operate in the Shotover River Canyons granted to Shotover Jet by the Shotover River Empowering Act


  • Visited by Queen Elizabeth II


  • New river base building opened


  • Business Development Quality winner at the Otago Business Awards
  • Supreme winner at the New Zealand Tourism Awards
  • Carried New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger
  • Listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange


  • Exporter of Services winner at the Trade NZ Excellence Awards


  • Carried 1 millionth passenger


  • Carried over 100,000 passengers in one year for the first time


  • Received concession to operate 4 Jet Boats at any one time on the Shotover River
  • Ngai Tahu Holdings purchase 80% of the company


  • First of the ‘Shotover Twins’ Jet Boat fleet introduced that have twin engines and carry 14 passengers
  • New beach reception and life jacket unit introduced


  • Carried New Zealand Prime minister Helen Clark


  • ‘Shotover Twins’ twin engine Jet Boat replacement fleet programme complete with 7 identical Jet Boats
  • Flood resistant floating jetty ramp built
  • Qualmark ‘Endorsed Visitor Activity’ accredited
  • Carried 2 millionth passenger

Soon after the invention of the Jet Unit by kiwi Bill Hamilton, the Melhop brothers started a world first – commercial jet boating on the Shotover River. That was in 1960 and it was used to raise money for Christian Youth Camps.

In 1965 Shotover Jet, as we know it today, began operating when they opened a jet boat service through the Shotover River canyons from the beach at Arthurs Point. So began one of Queenstown’s and possibly New Zealand’s first commercial adventure activities. With ‘Jet 30’ fibreglass boats that carried 5 passengers Shotover Jet carried 1,480 passengers in its first year of operation in 1965.  

After periods of ownership with Herm Palmer and then Trevor Gamble in 1986 Shotover Jet was purchased by Queenstown owned and operated tourist company Armada Holdings Ltd and in October 1993 it was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange as a public company. In mid 1999 Ngai Tahu Holdings became a major shareholder in Shotover Jet and today Shotover Jet is 100% privately New Zealand owned and operated by Ngai Tahu Holdings.

Primarily for reasons of safety, in 1987 the Shotover River Empowering Act granted Shotover Jet the sole operating concession for the Canyon section of the Shotover River, meaning that Shotover Jet have exclusive rights and are the only company permitted to operate in the spectacular Shotover River Canyons.

In 1993 Shotover Jet received the New Zealand Tourism Supreme Award and also the Best Visitor Attraction Award. The awards judges said that Shotover Jet had come to “epitomise adventure and action tourism in New Zealand … today the red Jet Boats are an international icon of tourism in New Zealand.”

Throughout the organisation's history Shotover Jet has been a company of continual development and innovation and 2002 - 2004 saw a major benchmark in the company’s history when significant capital was spent on the development and implementation of a new fleet of twin engine Jet Boats to replace its existing fleet of single engine Jet Boats. At the same time Shotover Jet introduced world class health, safety and maintenance procedures. The progress made by the business has meant that Shotover Jet not only meets Jet Boat industry standards but in many cases exceeds them.

These developments and innovations culminated at the New Zealand Tourism Awards in 2004 and 2005. In 2004 Shotover Jet received two prestigious awards at the annual New Zealand Tourism Awards, winning the Adventure Activities section and also the major category of New Zealand Visitor Activities and Attractions. In 2005 Shotover Jet was awarded New Zealand’s top Adventure Activity for the 2nd year in a row. These accolades once again recognised Shotover Jet as a market leader and an iconic New Zealand tourism product. The awards judges commented that “constant technical developments and a commitment to staff are ongoing; as are good management practices … Shotover Jet is a model tourism business that is an absolute icon of New Zealand tourism. An incredibly well managed business with a staff of passionate and committed professionals.”

Since its humble beginnings in 1965 through to today, Shotover Jet has developed as a market leader with an iconic status as one of New Zealand’s foremost tourism operators. In 2003, the company carried its 2 millionth passenger and will carry it’s 3 millionth in May 2011. 98% of all people who experience Shotover Jet say that the experience lived up to or exceeded their expectations.

When Shotover Jet began operating in 1965, it was one of Queenstown's first adventure activities and it has gone on to become one of New Zealand's most iconic 'must do' visitor attractions. Receiving many awards and accolades, Shotover Jet is widely regarded as the World leader in commercial jet boating and is very proud of the role it has played over it's 50 year history in the New Zealand tourism industry, delivering a quality New Zealand attraction to customers from all around the world.