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Speeding boaties endanger lives on Waikato River

A number of incidents involving dangerous behaviour on the Waikato River have prompted a call from Waikato Regional Council harbourmasters for boaties to learn and follow the rules.

Swimmers and kayakers flocked to the river near the Hamilton Gardens over the weekend as people sought to escape the heat and enjoy the fantastic summer weather.

An off-duty council staff member witnessed three incidences of boaties travelling at dangerously high speeds. However, the boaties were unable to be located by the time a harbourmaster arrived in the area.

“Some boaties are fantastic – they get a boat, they learn the rules and do all they can to keep not just everyone on board but also others in and on the water safe,” said maritime services team leader, Richard Barnett.

“While there’s not a lot, there are some boaties who put everyone around them at risk by failing to learn and adhere to the rules.

“Over the weekend we had three boaties within short succession of each other who came along the river, seemingly oblivious to how their unsafe behaviour endangered others,” Mr Barnett said. 

The first boatie travelled down current at approximately 15 knots, with a kayaker just 5 metres to one side of him and a swimmer 10 metres on the other. Boaties number two and three were similarly travelling at high speeds, with a number of swimmers nearby in the water.

In the region’s navigation safety rules this area of the river is a 5 knot zone. It’s also 5 knots because you’re always within 30 metres of the shore in this narrow area. Most importantly, the limit is 5 knots when you’re within 50 metres of other swimmers and boaties.

In each case the three boaties were breaking the rules, which could result in a $200 fine.

“Boats don’t have brakes, and people are fragile. With summer only part-way through, and plenty more hot days to come, we’re urging boaties to do all they can to avoid causing a tragedy,” Mr Barnett said.

People who witness unsafe behaviour on the region’s waterways can contact Waikato Regional Council harbourmasters 24/7 on 0800 800 401.

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