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Jetboaters’ victim speaks out

McKerrow Island Hut

More instances of drunk and abusive jetboaters in the Hollyford Valley have surfaced after DOC issued a statement saying obnoxious hut behaviour will not be tolerated.

DOC put out the warning yesterday after a tramper laid a complaint about rude jetboaters at Alabaster Hut on the Hollyford Track, who allegedly went hunting at night while drunk.

Another complaint has surfaced involving abusive booze-fueled behaviour at McKerrow Island Hut on the Hollyford Track over Labour Weekend.

University of Otago researcher Joseph Nichols said there were several groups of jetboaters drinking throughout the weekend which “ruined the entire tramping trip”. Some of the group became aggressive, breaking furniture and swearing in front of children.

“We spent three nights in huts at double capacity and there was so much alcohol there was no seating space,” Nichols said. “There was music, racist attacks and people spewing inside. I’ve stayed in hundreds of huts, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

He said he was assaulted by one of the group after he asked them to turn their music off, and was told to go back to bed.

“DOC has got to do something. It’s ruining it for all of us.”

Nichols, who is American, said the jetboaters’ attitude towards people from overseas was particularly concerning, with one repeatedly saying “everything was fine until you foreign c**** got here”.

DOC Te Anau operations manager Greg Lind said he was aware that groups of hunters and jetboaters had been “obnoxious, drunk, abusive, noisy and completely disrespectful” over Labour Weekend.

“If people run into that sort of behaviour, they need to report it as soon as they can,” Lind said. “If we get information, we try and do something about it.

“Names and vehicle registrations are helpful. Often we get the complaint afterwards, but people aren’t collecting the information to tie the evidence together.”

But he said DOC was limited in what it could do.

“If no criminal acts have taken place, we are limited. If there are firearms act abuses, we can present that to the police. However, often witnesses are unwilling to go through with criminal proceedings.”

Lind said ways of dealing with anti-social behaviour could be addressed when the Fiordland National Park management plan was reviewed next year.

Lind discouraged people from taking matters into their own hands.

“If people feel intimidated, I wouldn’t encourage them to deal with the situation at the time. Things can quickly escalate and confrontational situations are rarely of any value.

“I hope by getting the message out there, people will realise their bad behaviour is being noticed.”

Lind said jetboating in the Hollyford Valley was a popular pastime and was permitted in the park management plan.

“It’s a real tradition for jet boaters and there is a big network of huts that can be accessed. It’s important not to tar all jetboaters with the behaviour of a few.”

Another trouble spot in Fiordland National Park was Wairaurahiri and Waitutu huts on the South Coast Track.

“We have a lot of problems with those huts – people are often abusive. It’s a pretty sad situation there.”

DOC had recently charged a group of hunters for illegally whitebaiting in the area.