One family’s favourite river activity may soon become more available to others if Phill Joostens has his way.
The Mataura man submitted a resource consent to the Gore and Southland district councils earlier this year to start a commercial rafting business on the Mataura River and is awaiting approval.
Mr Joostens said he had spent many hours rafting on the river with his family.
“We love just stopping on a nice beach, enjoying the peace and quiet of the river, having a cup of tea,” Mr Joostens said.
He reasoned if he and his family enjoyed the activity, it might also appeal to others.
“It’s just a nice experience, so why not?”
Family and friends he had taken rafting also encouraged him to start the business.
“They are all like ‘Phill this is something people would be interested in doing’.”
Sections of river he planned to include in the options available to clients were a 20km-stretch on the Mataura River from Nokomai to Cattle Flat.
This would be offered a maximum three times a week.
Another possible trip on the Mataura was from Otamita bridge to Gore, Gore to Mataura and Mataura to Wyndham.
He might also raft the Oreti River from Lumsden to Dipton and a section on the lower Waikaia River, if the Mataura was flooded.
“This is a small-scale boutique rafting venture where emphasis [is] on delivering a high quality experience is the goal rather than high frequency of journeys,” Mr Joostens said.
There were a few rapids and water falls on the parts of the river he planned to raft down, which a raft would handle with ease.
“Rafts are amazing how much punishment they can take but the idea is not for some adrenaline-pumping thing – it was never about that,” Mr Joostens said.
Last summer he spent time with Steve and Emma Brown, who ran raft trips down the Taieri River and gained rafting qualifications.
“It made me realise how much enjoyment people get out of rafting and you don’t need grade 3-plus rapids to get it, so why not use what is in our own back yard?”
Mr Joostens expected the impact on the river and other users would be minimal.
“The low frequency of rafting trips will ensure any effects on other water-users will be minimal.
“Sure some may see the rafts drift down the river at times, but this is no more so than what the public can and do [do] already.”
The Mataura River was an exceptional river.
“The scenery up at Nokomai is largely unmodified, with a fabulous history in gold mining, geology and ecology.
“I want to impart my passion for the Southland outdoors and the knowledge I have learnt over my time as an outdoorsman.”
When preparing the resource consent, he had consulted with the Department of Conservation, Environment Southland, Southland Fish & Game, Te Ao Marama and Ngai Tahu.
“The feedback was very positive .. but the Fish & Game council who mostly supported the idea .. were uneasy at how their members would view sharing the river with others.”
Time would tell if there was a demand for the kind of experience he was offering.
“There’s nothing like this down here in Southland.”
While Mr Joostens planned to use rafts large enough to carry seven people, he had not bought any equipment yet before knowing if he had a resource consent.
He would also wait to lodge a safe operational plan with Maritime New Zealand.
Gore District Council planning manager Dean Balkin said Mr Joostens’ resource consent application was being assessed.
“No decision has been made as to whether it will be notified or non-notified.”