A waka ama crew skipper has been given a formal warning following an early morning collision between his vessel and a two-person rowing skiff on the Waikato River near Hamilton’s Fairfield Bridge in July this year.
One of the rowers suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision and is still recovering. The rowers had to be rescued from the water by the waka ama crew.
Waikato Regional Council recently completed its investigation into the incident and concluded it occurred because the waka was on the wrong side of the river.
Vessels on the river are expected to keep to their right hand side of the river but the waka had been on the left when the collision happened.
“The waka skipper was responsible for steering his vessel on its course along the river and that is why he has received the warning,” said the council’s maritime services manager Nicole Botherway.
“It is unfortunate that, despite having been involved in waka ama for about 20 years, the waka skipper said he did not know he should be on his right hand side of the river.”
However, the council acknowledged that there had been nothing deliberate about the collision, that the skipper had been very co-operative with the investigation and that, since the incident, he had taken steps to ensure he is fully up to speed with relevant rules.
“Considering all the factors of the case, the council has decided to issue a formal warning under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act to the skipper. A formal warning can be taken into account should there be a future incident involving this person.”
Mrs Botherway said it was important all river users know and stick to the rules.
“Clubs need to highlight these as part of their induction and regularly reinforce these to members.
“Unlike on our roads, international and national maritime rules are to keep right, not left, when on waterways.
“This incident could have easily led to a fatality. Following the proper rules meant it wouldn’t have occurred. Injuries like this are life changing and can affect all parts of people’s lives, including work and family. So we really need river users to follow the rules to help keep everyone as safe as possible,” said Mrs Botherway.