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New driver making history on the river with Hukafalls Jet

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New driver making history on the river with Hukafalls Jet

Taupō, 25 September 2014 – A new driver is making history with Hukafalls Jet in Taupō - the first female to drive commercially for the company.

Sarah Van Glabbeek graduated from Queenstown Resort College with an Adventure Tourism Management diploma in July and headed north to join Hukafalls Jet in a customer services role. Soon after arriving, Hukafalls Jet founder Phil Ball spotted in Sarah a keenness and willingness to learn that he liked and suggested she start training as a jet boat driver.

“They had a vacancy for a driver and Phil asked if I wanted to give it a go. I’d never even driven a boat before, but apparently that’s the best sort of people to train, green with no bad habits – and I’m always up for some thrills and adventure” Sarah says.

Four months of training later, as well as ongoing mentoring by Phil, Sarah is now a qualified commercial jet boat driver and loves taking people out on the river. The 120 hours of training Sarah completed is double that required to gain a commercial jet boat licence, a company policy that applies to all Ngāi Tahu Tourism owned jet boat subsidiaries.

“I was well over training with only 20 litre plastic drums full of water strapped into the boat for company and talking to myself – it’s great to have real people to interact with!” Sarah says.

Hukafalls Jet has been operating on the Waikato River since 1990 and is a founding adventure tourism operator in the Taupo region. It's the only jet boat operator that takes riders right up to the base of the thundering Huka Falls, New Zealand's most visited natural attraction.

Phil Ball, from sister company Shotover Jet in Queenstown, arrived in Taupo with his ute and one boat to start the Hukafalls Jet operation in 1990. The company has now grown to a fleet of 4 boats and 13 staff and last year beat three other finalists to win 'Best Tourism Business' at the Lake Taupo Business Awards.

In 1999 Christchurch based Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation invested in the Shotover Jet Group and since then has taken full ownership of the group and has also expanded it with new acquisitions. Ngai Tahu Tourism now includes Hukafalls Jet, Shotover Jet, Dart River Safaris, Rainbow Springs, Kiwi Encounter, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Glacier Hot Pools the Hollyford Track and most recently Agrodome in Rotorua.


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