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Published: 2008-12-12 00:00:00

A change to Environment Waikato’s Navigation Safety Bylaw will make it compulsory for boat users to wear lifejackets at all times from July 1 2009.

Under the current bylaw, it is only necessary to wear a lifejacket in situations of heightened risk, for example when crossing a bar.

The change is mandatory to ensure EW’s bylaw complies with new Maritime New Zealand rules.

A number of other changes to the bylaw have been proposed, many resulting from a series of public meetings across the region. Feedback from the meetings has been incorporated into a draft bylaw, which will be available for public comment from January 19 to February 27 next year.

"It was great to see so many people coming along to the public meetings and giving us their feedback and voicing their safety concerns," Environment Waikato navigation safety team leader Shelley Monrad said.

"We encourage anybody who uses the region’s waterways recreationally to check out the draft bylaw from January 19 and give us their thoughts. It’s not too late for people to raise safety concerns they might have for any waterway in the region."

Proposed changes to the current bylaw include:

· a kayaking visibility guideline, recommending measures kayakers should take to increase their visibility to other vessels

· naming of vessels, to help identify vessels breaking rules or needing assistance from Coastguard

· emergency contact details (rather than a name) on smaller vessels such as dinghies and kayaks, to help track down owners of recovered vessels and emergency response. 

Written submissions can be made on the draft bylaw from January 19 to February 27 2009. Information packages will be available from Environment Waikato’s website, www.ew.govt.nz, or by calling 0800 800 401. The proposed bylaw can also be inspected at any Environment Waikato office and at all city and district council offices and public libraries in the Waikato region.