Environment Waikato is to revise its bylaw requiring surfers to wear wetsuits.
The Council’s Policy Committee agreed today it had not intended to include surfers in its Navigation Safety Bylaw, which requires the wearing of a wetsuit as a flotation device.
It will move immediately to process an exemption in the bylaw to exclude surfers and windsurfers until it sees national regulations which are to be provided by the Maritime Safety Authority. The bylaw can then be amended so it is in line with national guidelines.
Surfers had complained that wearing a wetsuit was impractical.
Chief Executive Barry Harris said the Council recognised that the surfers had a point, and it was not intended that the bylaw be so broad as to include them. However water safety was the key issue and the bylaw was intended to keep water users – and those who might have to rescue them – safe in all conditions.
When the bylaw was being developed, windsurfers had asked to be excluded from wearing lifejackets as they could be a safety hazard but had recommended as safe practice the wearing of a wetsuit as a buoyancy aid at all times.
To remedy the situation, the Council would immediately process an exemption for surfers and windsurfers, and intends to formally amend the bylaw as soon as possible next year.