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Published: 2004-04-21 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is considering registering boats along with other options to directly fund navigation safety in the Waikato Region.

The Council’s Long-Term Council Community Plan raises the issue of boat registration – which won’t happen this year – but it wants to launch some discussion on the subject.

Navigation Safety Programme Manager David Pearks said the Council’s responsibilities for navigation safety were currently funded by the General Rate because of a lack of other options – even though 70 percent of the activities benefited boaties and waterway users rather than the Regional community. Non-boating ratepayers effectively subsidised those who benefited, he said.

Some other regional councils paid for navigation safety through commercial port charges, but Environment Waikato could not use this, so over the next year it intended to look at many options such as boat ramp charges, support from insurance companies or petrol taxes.

Under registration, boats would have a unique number with contact details maintained, similar to that for personal watercraft (jetskis). Boat registration could provide an educational opportunity, an enforcement mechanism and a way to generate revenue to fund navigation services as well as providing revenue for voluntary organisations that also provide boating services, he said.

The idea was discussed in 1999, and the Maritime Safety Authority’s research indicated that boat identification did not prevent accidents. However it may raise awareness of safety issues and improve boat operator behaviour as a skipper could be held accountable for actions on the water.

Mr Pearks said those who opposed it saw it as a fund raising tool with no safety benefit, an expensive bureaucracy that would be a burden on the boating community. In Queensland a charge of $55A was used. If $60 was charged, with about 14,000 households in the Waikato owning pleasure boat, it would raise about $840,000.

Other options were being considered and the Council was wanting comment on registration and any other options. It would be talking to boaties and other waterway users, he said. Since many boats came from outside the Region Environment Waikato will also talk to Government and other regional councils.

No decision would be made about funding without consultation, Mr Pearks said.