Marina operator considering nets in response to public concerns about breakwater

by Kim Bowden - Feb 22, 2024

Safety nets look set to be added to the outside edge of the breakwater at Queenstown Marina off Frankton Road after years of lobbying by Queenstown local and accomplished kayaker Steve Gurney.

The operations team at KJet, who manages the day-to-day running of the marina, is investigating the option to give any boaties or swimmers who may find themselves in trouble close to the marina an easier way to get themselves out of the water.  

KJet owner Shaun Kelly says he is aware of the safety concerns raised by Mr Gurney and, although he does not entirely agree with his assessment, he thinks it is important some changes are made at the marina in response.

While ladders were initially being considered, Mr Kelly says the preferred option now is nets.

The plan is to have up to 12 nets spaced approximately every 30 metres along the outside edge of the breakwater, which is a long curved structure that juts out into Lake Wakatipu to provide a protective barrier for the marina berths.

Mr Kelly says the nets will be rolled up, "so they're not dangling in the water", with a clearly visible pull cord.

"As soon as you pull it, it'll drop down accordingly and they climb up."

He is clear that he does not believe the breakwater poses a risk.

"It's the same as marinas built all over the world."

But he is also keen to reach a resolution.

"If somebody's got a concern, we don't necessarily agree with their concern, but we will put some things in place to mitigate that concern.

"To keep people happy."

While Mr Gurney is welcoming the news, after years of watching his complaint be bounced around between WorkSafe, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Harbourmaster, and the marina operator, he says it is hard not to feel a little bit sceptical until he sees the nets installed.

However, he thinks the net proposal "sounds reasonable, as long as the swimmer can reach the pull cord".

Not long after the marina was built, Mr Gurney raised concerns about the waves that rebound off the breakwater - that have the potential to topple kayaks and the small boats.

Another competent local kayaker, Simon Bank, discovered the hazard the hard way when in October last year he was abruptly tipped into the water just off the marina.

"It more freaked me out because of what it could do to someone else."

Passersby up on the marina gave him a hand to pull himself up and out of the cold water.

"The marina platform curves around and when the southerly wind is blowing, it creates quite a wave that washes against the marina, but it doesn't just stop there, it bounces back and creates a secondary wave that you can't see.

"That's a design thing, and it can't be changed, but what can be changed, or certainly improved significantly, is the safety features of the marina."

He says the side of the breakwater has "a bit of an overhang" and there is nothing for a swimmer to push off with their feet to give them a boost out of the water.

He thinks a ladder or a net will do the job.

"It's as simple as that."

Mr Gurney says he would welcome an invite to a launch event for any new nets.

"We'd love to have wee celebration and congratulations when they've put them on...So we can all come down and say thank you."

The marina is owned by Californian Iraj Barabi.

Main image: The start of the breakwater at Queenstown Marina.


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