Saturday, 24 September 2016

NEW ZEALAND: Lake Pukaki Set To Attract More Tourists

Lake Pukaki is set to become the home of New Zealand's only commercial hovercraft company.

Twizel company H2Explore will launch its hovercraft operation early next year, making it the first tourism attraction to operate on the lake.

The company's directors hope the new venture will provide a "much-needed tourism injection" for the Mackenzie District.

The new hovercraft will seat 10 people, plus a pilot. It is being constructed in Saint Petersburg by Russian company Christy Hovercrafts.

Director Rebecca Flannery said the launch of the operation would bring to fruition four years of research.

"This has included obtaining all the relevant consents and approvals to establish this unique operation on the Tasman River and Lake Pukaki both as a tourism activity and transport option for cyclists."

The hovercraft would also provide a much needed link on the Alps2Ocean cycle trail, she believed.

"Presently, cyclists begin at Aoraki/Mt Cook and must drive around the lake to Tasman Point or make the journey by air.

"The hovercraft will open up to tourists an otherwise largely inaccessible part of the area. It will also provide transport across the Tasman River for cyclists starting the Alps2Ocean cycle trail at its official starting point, Aoraki/Mt Cook."

She believed the activity would increase visitor bed nights to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Tekapo, and the Twizel area.

Latest figures show guest nights are up 12 per cent in the on last year.

"Nowhere else in the world will you be able to ride a hovercraft under the gaze of Aoraki/Mt Cook. It is something new and exciting that has never been done before by any visitor to New Zealand.

"It also gives visitors a reason to stay and play another day."

She had noticed an increase in investment in the district since beginning the process of starting the company, and believed that was set to continue.

Flannery declined to comment on the cost of the hovercraft.

The unique environment of Lake Pukaki made the hovercraft the only ideal transport option, Flannery said.

Lake Pukaki is also a scenic reserve.

"By using a hovercraft the river bed and shoreline will be free of any structures as no launching platform is needed.

"The hovercraft is the only vessel that can travel between water and land without disturbing the natural river bed and shore line. It is diesel powered,making it a low environmental impact."

Founding director Riaan van der Westhuizen said he was passionate about the district and saw an untapped opportunity to boost tourism.

"There is no experience like this in New Zealand. This is going to blow tourism out of the water.

"The hovercraft is like nothing I have ever been in, 0-100km in five seconds it is like a Ferrari on water."

Mackenzie District mayor Claire Barlow welcomed the new venture.

"Every new tourism product that establishes itself in the district gives visitors more reasons to stay, enjoy the experience on offer and invest in our local economy.

"I think the hovercraft experience that H2Explore are offering will complement the other activities on offer in this outstanding part of New Zealand."

H2Explore was looking to launch the business early next year.