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Vessel speeds (5 knot rule)

Stick to the 5 knot rule5 knot rule

The 5 knot rule for the Waikato region varies depending on it you are boating on inland or coastal waters.


Go no faster than 5 knots (a fast walking pace) within:

  • 50m of a vessel or swimmer
  • 30m of the shore
  • 200m of any vessel that is flying a dive flag.

For full information, go to clause 2.4 of the Navigation Safety Bylaw.


Go no faster than 5 knots (a fast walking pace) within:

  • 50m of another vessel or swimmer
  • 200m of the shore, any structure, or any vessel flying a dive flag.

For full information go to clause 2.5 of the Navigation Safety Bylaw.

Who the rule is for

The 5 knot rule is for all recreational vessels, including jetskis.

 Where the rule applies

There are 5 knot zones within some boating areas, set by the Navigation Safety Bylaw. To read location specific informaiton, go to Schedule 1 of Navigation Safety Bylaw.

Where the rule varies

In the following areas, the 5 knot rule varies. You can find out the vessel speed rules for each area in the Navigation Safety Bylaw.

Awakino River Mercury Bay
Coromandel Harbour Mokau River
Firth of Thames Motukakaho Island upstream to Meremere
Hamilton Ngaruawahia
Kawhia Harbour Port Waikato
Lake Arapuni Tairua Estuary
Lake Karapiro Waikato River – Rangiriri
Lake Maraetai Waikato River (Huntly) Lakes Waahi, Weaver and Kainui
Lake Ohakuri Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour
Lake Whakamaru Whangamata Harbour
Lakes Aratiatia, Atiamuri and Waipapa Whangapoua Harbour
Marokopa River  

Breaking the rules

Waikato Regional Council harbourmasters are on patrol and issuing infringement notices with fines of up $200 for people breaking the rules. But if you break the rules, you’re not just breaking the law – you could damage property and cause injury or loss of life.

>> Test yourself!  Have a go at the Coast Guard's Day Skipper assessment