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Published: 2012-12-14 00:00:00

Draft boating rules, including a proposal for the compulsory wearing of lifejackets, have been released by Waikato Regional Council for public comment.

Members of the public have until 5 pm on Friday, 22 February to make submissions on the proposed Navigation Safety Bylaw 2013. For more information on the bylaw review and to complete the online submission form, visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/bylawreview

“There are more than 70,000 people who go boating in the region each year and this council is responsible for setting and enforcing some of the boating rules to make sure our waterways are safe for everybody,” said navigation safety programme manager Nicole Botherway. 

“We are particularly keen to get feedback on a proposed rule change which will make it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn on vessels of six metres or less in length while the vessel is underway,” Mrs Botherway said. 

The bylaw impacts recreational activities, including power boating, kayaking, yachting, jetskiing and swimming. 

Its purpose is to provide for safe use within all navigable waters of the Waikato region, excluding Lake Taupō which is under the Department of Internal Affairs jurisdiction. 

In the meantime, the current boating rules remain in place and Waikato Regional Council’s harbourmasters will be carrying out boat safety blitzes over summer. There will be a particular focus on ensuring boaties are carrying waterproof communications, as well as correctly-fitting lifejackets for each person on board. 

“The days are hotting up and with the holiday season almost upon us we know the region’s waterways will be busy.

“We want everyone to have fun while they’re on the water, but we also want them to make it home safely at the end of the day,” Mrs Botherway said.

Waikato Regional Council has the following quick tips for water safety this summer:

  • Wear correctly-fitting lifejackets.
  • Carry a waterproof VHF radio.
  • Ensure cellphones are in drybags.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Turn lights on at night.
  • Know basic boating rules, such as keeping to the right.
  • Avoid alcohol. 

Mrs Botherway said many boaties still head out onto the water believing they won’t strike trouble. “And that ends up being the case for most people. But there will be some who might have unexpected engine trouble or their boat hit by a rogue wave. It might be you. 

“So it’s imperative if you’re heading out on the water that you carry lifejackets for everyone on board, and that you store your waterproof VHF radio and cellphones in drybags.” 

Mrs Botherway advised boaties to ensure they have communications coverage for the entirety of the outing. 

Last summer’s survey of boaties carried out by the council found that around 42 per cent were not carrying cellphones in drybags. “If a cellphone is your only means of contact in an emergency and it gets wet, the likelihood of surviving an accident drops significantly,” she warned.