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Warnings and fines for boating offences

Environment Waikato issued two infringement notices and 144 warnings to boaties breaking navigation safety bylaws over Christmas.

The two infringement notices were issued to one boat operator.

In a report to the Council’s Regulatory Committee, navigation safety programme manager David Pearks said regional councils were given responsibility for navigation safety from July 2000. From July last year, navigation safety bylaws became operative. The Council operates navigation safety services for the Coromandel area, and has contracted out other areas.

The peak period for providing services was over Christmas, with a heavier than usual workflow continuing until the end of March when boating activity at holiday destination started to tail off. The Coromandel peninsula was the main focus of activities due to the influx of holidaymakers, along with the Waikato River through Hamilton City, he said.

This year the amount of boating and other water related activities was far smaller due to changeable weather, which limited the number of issues staff had to deal with compared with previous years. Fewer watercraft used the harbours at the same time over the holiday period. While peak numbers at times exceeded previous years, it was for shorter periods.

Education was the main mechanism to ensure compliance with the bylaw, he said. Warnings could be issued, and persistent offenders or those who committed offences resulting in risk to others could be issued with an infringement notice. This allowed harbourmasters to impose $100 and $200 fines.

As harbourmasters were well known around the harbours they operate they provided help to a wide range of recreational users. Over the peak period they had to attend 60 callouts after-hours, ranging from retrieving boats that had broken free of moorings, complaints about the use of watercraft, checking seaworthiness of craft, or sorting out disputes about anchoring positions.

Staff were available to seven days a week, 24 hours a day and a total of 196 inquiries we responded to about navigation safety issues, including requests for clarification of the provisions of the new bylaw. Another 38 calls were received Hamilton, most of which related to issues on the Waikato river. Staff were called out to investigate seven complaints.

During this period the services provided by three full-time and two part-time harbourmasters, one enforcement officer, three contract staff and seven voluntary launch wardens.

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