Ngāi Tahu Tourism reveals electric jet boat prototype in bid to become carbon neutral

One of New Zealand's largest tourism providers has announced its plan to become carbon neutral. 

Ngāi Tahu has revealed an electric jet boat prototype, hoping to halve their environmental tourism footprint by 2050. 

No engine noise - just one of Queenstown’s most popular tourist attractions, slicing cleanly through the Kimiakau, or Shotover River.

Ngāi Tahu’s electric jet boat prototype is designed solely for tourism. It’s part of the iwi’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.

"I understand this is a world-first of its kind, an electric jet boat in the tourism industry at the capacity of what this jet boat can do," Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai told Newshub.

"Prior to COVID, the jet boat fleet was 53 percent of our carbon footprint, so the biggest portion of carbon tourism," Ngāi Tahu Tourism general manager Jolanda Cave said.

During peak times two jet boats go out every fifteen minutes, and each of those trips uses 70 litres of fuel. The goal is to have half the fleet electric by 2030.

Right now it takes 15 hours to recharge but ultimately it’ll take just 25 minutes, the same time it takes to refuel a petrol-powered jet boat.

Test pilot Nick Simpson said the cool thing about it is you can't hear the engines.

"Comparatively, it drives exactly the same. It just really heightens your senses. In the fact you can't hear those engines behind you. It's a really cool sensation."

Tumahi said tourism is just one part of the iwi’s wider climate change strategy. 

"The changing weather patterns have had a huge impact on our villages. Sixteen of our marae are coastal two are inland so we've had a lot of experience around flooding."

Acting now before more urupa (burial sites) fall victim to sea level rise and dairy farming becomes untenable. 

Whilst the electric boat is adding a lot of grunt to Ngāi Tahu's sustainability drive, it's also got a way to go undergoing many more tests before it's carrying thrill-seekers.