Blue Duck Packrafting Limited is owned by Hugh Canard. 


Hugh has been a tramper, kayaker, and rafter for all his adult life, in New Zealand, USA, Canada, and France. 


Rivers have long held a fascination for him.

“I can’t look at a river without wanting to get in a boat and see where it goes, and what’s around the next bend.”



Meet our namesake, the Whio, or the New Zealand Blue Duck.

  • Whio are one of our rarest birds, only found in New Zealand - and on the $10 note.

  • Amazing adaptations see it survive in environments others ducks wouldn't shake a feather at – fast flowing rivers

  • What's unique about the Whio?

    • Camouflage - perfectly camouflaged. Blue/grey in colour gives them their name Blue Duck. The colour helps them blend into their environment.

    • Designer lips – Whio bill designed like no other - fleshy lip on the end of their bill protects it when they forage

    • Navigation – large webbed feet for swimming in the rapids. Even newly hatched ducklings can negotiate the biggest white water.

    • Eyes Forward – distinctive yellow eyes forward facing like human to see what's happening ahead

    • Size – males weigh about 1000 – 1300 grams and females are slightly lighter at 800 – 1000 grams.

    • Call & character – males make the distinctive 'fee-o, fee-o' call while female make a rattly growling noise.

  • They need clean water so if you see Whio you know the river is healthy.

  • The greatest threats to Whio are introduced predators, in particular stoats, man-made construction like dams or diversions, and water pollution.


With Whio numbers at around 2,500, the Whio is officially a Vulnerable Species.  As a packrafter you will find yourself sharing the same habitat. Leave them be and they won’t be bothered.  Just slowly and quietly drift by. 

They are so adept in whitewater rivers you’ll see why we called our packrafting business Blue Duck Packrafting Ltd.


Hugh's History

Hugh saw a lot of the high country during a three-year stint with the New Zealand National Film Unit, working in national parks as an Assistant Ranger (emptying rubbish) and eventually starring in a film of a climb of Mt Aspiring.  


Kayaking became his passion after he left university and for the past 40 years he has paddled most of the rivers in the South Island, quite few in the North Island, the major rivers in France, and just recently Hugh did his second trip through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.   Hugh’s interest in the un-explored places motivated him to tackle a few rivers that the guide books either omitted to mention, or deemed “impossible”, and he ran the first descents of the Arahura and Turnbull Rivers in Westland.  

Hugh and his wife Biddy owned a sea kayaking business in the Abel Tasman National Park, winning regional and national awards.  In this business Hugh introduced 30,000 people to sea kayaking.  He has been the President of Whitewater New Zealand, and is now the Patron.  His interest now is in the journey rather than the action, and he does many trips by raft and cataraft, with friends and family on the longer rivers such as the Clarence/Waiau Toa, which he has now run 15 times in every craft possible. 

Hugh and Packrafting


Packrafting captured Hugh’s interest a couple of years ago, at the inaugural national Packraft Meet, and this interest has gathered momentum.  As an engineer and research manager, the technical aspects became as fascinating as the possibilities of new trips and a whole new way of self-contained back country travel.  As a whitewater and sea kayaker he found some packrafts to be a bit “performance lite”, and he set about thinking up ways to make packrafts more responsive, without losing their lightness and stability. 

Hugh has a partnership with a Chinese manufacturer specifically for Blue Duck Packrafting Ltd. 

“This is an ideal arrangement, because the Chinese partner has the best manufacturing set up you could wish for, intense discipline on quality, plus a global market presence, and we have New Zealand with its amazing rivers and trails on which to test the new packraft models.  If a packraft can handle New Zealand conditions, it will handle almost anywhere.”

Hugh is keen to see packrafting develop into a safe enjoyable activity that enables more people to experience our rivers and back country, with a low environmental impact.   He set up Blue Duck Packrafting to offer innovative packraft designs that have been specifically adapted to New Zealand conditions to be available at high quality and reasonable prices.