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Published: 2003-06-12 00:00:00

The poor conduct of some small boats skippers is continuing to cause headaches for Environment Waikato’s Navigation Safety officers.

This week’s Regulatory Committee meeting heard that more boaties in ‘significant numbers’ are continuing to travel at excessive speed close to shore, close to other boats and swimmers and in restricted speed zones.

Environment Waikato took on the responsibility for navigation safety issues from July 2001, and now administers activity within harbours and foreshores, jetski registration, sign posting and navigation aids around rivers and waterways, moorings and safe boating and water recreation education.

Programme Manager David Pearks said jetski users have been targeted to make them aware of registration requirements and new signs have been erected by boat ramps to educate users. The Council has also worked with recreation groups, boat dealers and water users to ensure they understand the rules.

Four infringement notices were issued during the 2001/02 period and two during the past summer. In future people issued with infringement notices would also be requested to attend a Coastguard approved safe boating course.

Control of harbour activity was generally maintained through education and verbal warnings, although a harder line of warning notices were issued to blatant offenders.

“Although education is the preferred means of gaining co-operation, there is a continuing need for a penalty regime as some people are unwilling to understand the consequences of their actions and change their behaviour unless penalised, although most boat users adhere to the rules for safe boating.”

The main concerns were excessive speed of vessels close to shore, water skiing in restricted areas, insufficient life jackets in boats, unregistered jetskis and swimming and diving from wharves.

A total of 229 verbal warnings were issued, 21 written warnings, two infringement notices and five recommendations for prosecution. Two people died in water craft related accidents during the summer, a jetskier in Tairua and a waterskier on the lower Waikato. Councillors expressed their concern at the deaths.

A harder line would need to be taken with the imposition of instant fines for vessels and jetskis flouting bylaws for offenders who were unwilling to keep to the rules. Patrol vessels would need to be more visible on the Waikato River with its increasing use, as water patrols were the best means of deterring people who caused problems, he said.

Managing moorings also took up a large amount of harbourmaster time in the Coromandel. Demand for short term rental moorings was higher than the previous year in all harbours, he said. Two extreme weather events had resulted in the loss of navigation buoys and signs and replacement of equipment, clean up costs and staff time had cost an unexpected $33,000.

Recreational use of the Region’s waterways was increasing, including after work and weekends, with greater potential for conflict, he said.