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Published: 2011-01-11 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s navigation safety team is reminding skippers to follow the region’s navigation safety bylaw after a collision between two boats put two children in hospital at the weekend.

Environment Waikato compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said that harbourmasters have reported generally very good behaviour from boaties this holiday period, which was particularly pleasing. “However, a small minority continue to flout the rules, and even abuse the harbourmasters when they pull them up for it,” he said.

“Most people who breach the rules do so in ignorance and a simple reminder is all that it takes to get things sorted” said Mr Dragten.  “But it is worth remembering that breaching the bylaw can result in a $200 instant fine, so it pays to know and follow the rules.”

Important rules to reduce the risk of collision include:

  • The 5 knot rule, which requires boaties to reduce speed when close to people or other vessels. Boaties must reduce their speed to no more than 5 knots (9 km per hour) within 50m of a swimmer or another vessel, and within 200m of shore. Five knots is equivalent to walking pace.
  • The minimum age for operating a powered vessel that can go faster than 10 knots is 15 years old. Younger people can drive if supervised by a person over 15 years old who can reach the controls. If the vessel is towing people or objects, a ‘lookout’ person is required, in addition to the person supervising the young driver. 

Other rules to remember:

  • Lifejackets must be worn at all times in boats under 6m, unless the skipper decides it is safe not to.
  • Vessel identification rules require powered vessels 4m or larger and non-powered vessels 6m or larger to display a name or identifying mark. Smaller vessels must have emergency contact details and/or the owner’s name or contact details, clearly visible on or in the vessel.
  • Skippers must have at least one appropriate form of communication aboard, such as a cellphone in a dry bag, electronic position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), VHF radio or flare.

Environment Waikato also recommends that all skippers do a boating course such as a day skippers or boat masters qualification. 

“A recognised boating qualification is essential to understanding the rules on the water, and knowing the rules can make the difference between a fun day out and a disaster,” said Mr Dragten.

The recent accidents have prompted calls for the introduction of skipper licensing or boat registration.

 “Environment Waikato sees these as being national matters. Certainly, Maritime New Zealand has considered the issue but found that overseas these systems did not lead to a reduction in fatalities on the water.

“It comes down to the fact that there can be no substitute for knowing and following the rules to keep yourself and others safe.”
The navigation safety bylaw can be viewed on Environment Waikato’s website