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 has 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 its 50-year history in the New Zealand tourism industry, delivering a quality New Zealand attraction to customers from all around the world.


  • Shotover Jet Services opened by the Melhop brothers operating from the beach at Arthurs Point with a Hamilton Jet 30 boat.


  • Sold to Herm and May Palmer carrying between 3200-3400 passengers per annum. The beach caravan was purchased and the boat was updated to a Hamilton Jet 41 boat.


  • Sold to Trevor Gamble and commenced operations as 'Shotover Jet', carrying 6500 passengers in the first year.


  • Transitioned from sightseeing to its current thrill-based experience. Tiered seat concept introduced to carry 9 passengers.


  • A new fleet of Jet Boats ‘Shotover Jet Mark II’ carrying 11 passengers built and introduced into service


  • Carried 100 thousandth passenger


  • Bought by Armada Holdings and jet boat fleet updated with new motors and LPG fuel.


  • The 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


  • Ngāi Tahu Holdings purchased 80% of the company. As Ngāi Tahu, the Māori people of this land, our connection to the Kimiākau (Shotover River) goes back centuries before the arrival of Europeans when our tīpuna (ancestors) used this river to transport supplies. It made sense to purchase Shotover Jet as a platform to share the beauty and excitement of our river with our manuhiri (visitors).


  • First of the twin-engine jet boats introduced carrying 14 passengers. New beach reception unit introduced.


  • Carried New Zealand Prime minister Helen Clark


  • Carried 2 millionth passenger and the rest of the fleet replaced with twin engines making seven identical jet boats.


  • Ngāi Tahu became 100% owners. The river is part of who we are, and only we can introduce manuhiri (visitors) to our long history in the area and share the beauty and excitement of the Kimiākau (Shotover River). No one knows this area like we do!


  • With exclusive access to the spectacular Shotover River Canyons, the 3 millionth customer chooses to ride with Shotover Jet!


  • Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ride the Shotover Jet on 13 April. Media coverage was worldwide and further cemented Shotover Jet as the quintessential, world famous, ‘must do’ jet boat ride.


  • Celebrated 50 continuous years of operation. The first commercial jet boat business in the world to have reached that milestone!


  • First ever Shotover Jet aluminium boat retires & relocates to National Motorsport Museum


  • Visited by Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand.


  • New logo and jet boat design introduced, including a kōwhaiwhai (pattern) to help connect manuhiri (visitors) to our Ngāi Tahu history in the area. Te reo jet boat names gifted to every boat in the Shotover Jet fleet.


  • A new era of sustainability and innovation! What is believed to be a world first, Shotover Jet completes the conversion of one of its petrol-powered jet boats to 100 percent electric.

1965 - Herm Palmer

1965 - Herm Palmer





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