Environment Waikato won’t be requiring children to wear wetsuits while they boogie board this summer.
The new navigation safety regulations do apply to surfers, windsurfers and sailboarders. Environment Waikato’s navigation safety programme manager David Pearks said today the furore over the need for people to use wetsuits or lifejackets while on the water was based on an incorrect interpretation of the new Navigation Safety regulations in the media.
The new rules, which were implemented on July 1, make it compulsory for boats to carry lifejackets, and Environment Waikato’s bylaw says wetsuits or lifejackets are needed on “surfboards, sailboards, windsurfers or any vessel”.
“Clearly, boogie boards are not vessels. Our bylaw was drafted based on draft national rules from the Maritime Safety Authority, to ensure consistency around the country. We have a choice of education, instant fines and prosecutions.”
He said the bylaw was drafted after a national working party identified rules which would be appropriate across all regions. The Council had consulted widely with people in the Waikato Region before the bylaw was drafted, and the practicality of wearing lifejackets on surfboards and windsurfers was raised.
Windsurfers and surfers had requested that wetsuits be substituted for lifejackets.
“We are concerned more with education, rather than enforcement. There’s no suggestion that we’d be fining people out on a summer’s day on their surfboard in boardshorts.
“But we do want to encourage people to think about their safety while on the water – and that means if it’s a mid winter evening and they’re the last surfer out there, they need to take personal responsibility to ensure their own safety and that of others who may have to rescue them.”
Mr Pearks said the regulations were aimed at the safe use of surfboards and windsurfers, and in certain circumstances it was advisable for surfers to wear extra buoyancy aids such as wetsuits for their own and others’ safety.
A draft of the Maritime Safety Authority’s regulations will be open for submissions in the new year and the bylaw could be reviewed at any time, he said.