A recent explosion in the popularity of kayaking has Environment Waikato staff concerned about the growing potential for boating collisions.
Maritime New Zealand’s recreational boating manager Jim Lott confirmed an estimated 80 per cent of New Zealand’s 40,000-50,000 kayaks had come into use since the year 2000.
“For a couple of years in about 2004/2005 there were 12,000 new kayaks going into the water every year, which was huge,” he said.
Environment Waikato harbour master Kim McKenzie said increasingly congested waterways were a concern, as many people didn’t appear to know the navigation safety rules.
“It’s really important that people familiarise themselves with our Navigation Safety Bylaw and read the signs at boat ramps – and that doesn’t just apply to kayakers, it applies to all recreational boaties,” he said.
“We’re seeing near misses all the time, every day, and with two long weekends coming up the waterways are going to be even more congested. Please remember to keep right wherever possible and wear an appropriately sized life jacket.”
Mr Lott said reports of kayaking accidents were increasing considerably as the sport grew, particularly around harbours.
“People are most likely to get run down in areas like the Coromandel, where they’re going further offshore and boats can’t see them because of wave action,” Mr Lott said.
“There haven’t been as many accidents on rivers but the potential certainly exists, especially on the Waikato River, which has lots of blind bends.”
He encouraged kayakers to attach chopper flags (similar to those found on bicycles) to their boats and to select brightly coloured clothing, lifejackets, boats and paddles.
Environment Waikato’s Navigation Safety Bylaw is available from the council’s offices and on the website.