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Published: 2009-10-21 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has announced it will be taking a firmer line on enforcing boat safety rules this summer, a move which could result in more fines being issued by the region’s harbourmasters.

The council’s navigation safety manager Shelley Monrad said the new approach was needed because serious infringements of the rules were continuing despite extensive education campaigns in recent years.

"Our education work has focused on boating rules and regulations, and has worked well to date with the majority of people.

"But our research from the past three years shows education has gone as far as it will go in many cases, such as speed and the use of navigation lights, and to get more people complying with the rules we need to be more proactive in our enforcement with those who are not taking any notice."

For example, Ms Monrad said education had led to 90 per cent of boats carrying lifejackets as the rules require. "But our surveys show 10 per cent are still not carrying them. So EW harbourmasters will now be issuing $200 fines to boaties who are not carrying enough correctly fitted lifejackets for all persons aboard their vessels."

There will also be a particular focus on stricter enforcement of the rules regarding:

· Personal watercraft (jetski) registration – the Waikato, Auckland and Northland regional councils all require jetskis used in their areas to be registered.

· Lights on boats at night - those boating at night need make sure they are displaying correct lights to protect the safety of others..

· Speed - boaties need to make sure they keep speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore or any structure and 50 metres of vessels and persons in the water. These speed restrictions may vary in some areas. All boaties should ensure they take a precautionary approach and find out the relevant location information themselves or contact their harbourmaster.

· Lifejackets – boaties must carry the correct number of lifejackets of an appropriate size and wear those at times of heightened risk.

Information on these and other rules can be found in the newly revised navigation safety bylaw. The bylaw applies to the Waikato region’s harbours, rivers, lakes and coastal waters and is available on Environment Waikato’s website

Ms Monrad said it was important for people to follow the rules to ensure that they and other people were kept safe on the water.

"We want to prevent death, injury and damage to property. We would honestly prefer not to have to fine anyone but feel we now have to take a firmer enforcement approach to those who are still disobeying the rules despite our extensive education work.

"Basically our message for water users this summer is take care of yourselves and others on the water. Let’s keep everybody safe and avoid us having to hand out fines."