“It’s illegal to use a boat at night without the correct lights and we are very concerned that someone could be seriously injured or killed in a collision,” Environment Waikato navigation safety manager David Pearks said.
“A boat travelling at 30 kilometres an hour has very little time to react when it has no indication that there’s a vessel anchored in its path.”
Mr Pearks said the problem was region wide, occurring in marine areas, rivers and lakes.
“We’ve seen it in a number of areas including Kawhia, Raglan, Whangamata, Tairua and the lower end of the Waikato River near Port Waikato.”
He said pressure on fisheries was seeing more people going out fishing at night, when there was less competition from other boats.
“We’re also seeing more large vessels, which let skippers go further out to sea or stay out overnight. So rather than having a lot of small boats anchored close to land, there are more large boats sitting further out in navigation channels and areas where other vessels may encounter them.”
Mr Pearks said Environment Waikato wanted to be proactive by warning people about the dangers and giving them the opportunity to have the correct lights fitted to their vessel.
“But should the problem persist we may have to look at enforcement measures such as fines,” he said.
Mr Pearks said the type of lights a boat required depended on the vessel’s size, but, as a minimum requirement, most boats needed a white light that could be seen from two nautical miles away in all directions. The light must be switched on from sunset to sunrise and during times of poor visibility, such as in rain or fog.
Environment Waikato navigation safety staff have been raising awareness of the requirement to have lights on boats recently by handing out brochures at boat ramps and boat shows and working with honorary wardens.
“If people have any concerns or questions we’d really appreciate them getting in touch with us so we can give them help and advice,” Mr Pearks said.
More information about lights on boats is available at Environment Waikato’s website, www.ew.govt.nz/navlights(external link), or by calling the council’s navigation safety team on 0800 800 401.