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Boats return to Waikareiti

THE dinghies are back at Lake Waikareiti, but a personal locater beacon has become compulsory.

It has been more than a year since boat hire was stopped at the popular tourist attraction, after an adult and two young boys had to be airlifted from the lakeshore when blown off-course in their hired dinghy.

That was in October 2014 and some saw the decision to stop boat hire as an overreaction. From Monday the boats were being hired again at the same price — $20 for four hours or $60 for 24 hours — with an additional charge of $15 per day for a personal locator beacon.

Gisborne Canoe and Tramping president Gillian Ward said it was an “awesome outcome”.

“It just gives such a unique way to experience that wonderful natural environment. People who don’t have physical fitness to walk the track can row there and the fishing also helps manage the trout population.

“We will support the new initiative as much as we can. It has been part of our culture for over 50 years. People have grown up being able to row over Lake Waikareiti, so to being able to still do that is great.”

Sandy Bay Hut is located on the shore of Lake Waikareiti and it takes about four-to-five hours to get there by walking around the lake. Rowing across takes about half an hour in good conditions.

Lake Waikareiti is a lake 900 metres above sea level in Te Urewera, which is governed by a board of Ngai Tuhoe and Crown appointees following a Treaty of Waitangi settlement in July 2014.

It is subject to sudden changes in weather but is safe for boating, with islands and headlands offering shelter from wind.

Ms Ward said there was the back-up of having the walking track available for a return trip so people did not feel under pressure to row back across the lake in poor conditions.

A Ngai Tuhoe spokeswoman said Te Urewera Waikaremoana biodiversity team had safely reintroduced the boats after they strengthened a weather system and included key safety messages in the hire agreement, which are explained with the hirer.

“All boats have been closely inspected and each boat is issued with a personal locator beacon users can activate if they believe the conditions are unsafe.

“The row boats can be hired from the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre by the public for a small fee.”

Boats were first installed in 1950 and run by THC (Tourist Hotel Corporation) in association with its Lake House Hotel until 1970, when hireage was transferred to Urewera National Park Board.

A young rower enjoys her exercise on Lake Waikareiti. File picture