Mixed views on proposed lifejacket law
Plans to make lifejackets compulsory for kids could one day apply to everyone.
Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga has introduced a member's bill to Parliament that would make wearing a lifejacket compulsory for children up to 15 on boats 6 metres in length and under.
The proposal only relates to youngsters up to 15 but Mr Lotu-Iiga say he expects a select committee to examine whether it should be extended to all ages.
There are on average 17 recreational boating deaths a year.
"Even though lifejacket wearing rates have increased markedly in recent years, many boat users still do not wear lifejackets regularly," Mr Lotu-Iiga says.
"As a consequence fatalities that could have been avoided on our waters continue to occur. Analysis of boating accidents shows that capsizes and other events are often unexpected and boat users have little or no opportunity to put on their lifejackets.
"I have seen this first-hand in my own electorate of Maungakiekie where a father and his 7-year-old son tragically drowned in the Manukau Harbour in May of last year.
"Their dinghy capsized and sadly they were not wearing lifejackets."
But Ponsonby Cruising Club commodore Dave Frederic says competent, experienced boaties don't need to be further legislated into safety.
He says there have been no drownings within his club in its 113 years.
"The general feeling is we're against it, it makes a mockery of our abilities as experienced boaties," he says.
"I would rather see the energy go into education for kids, waterwise and swimming.
"Our people are trained and know how to deal with rough water, calm water, whatever.
"To have a blanket rule is going to instil confidence that is unfounded. It's got to be education.
"We have a very successful sailing school and in four weeks you can learn to sail, handle boats, what happens when a boat flips upside down and confidence on the water."
The proposed legislation is supported by Manukau Cruising Club president Jim Anderson who says the tragedies on the Manukau Harbour in recent years have highlighted the need for firmer regulations around water safety.
"I think it's pretty sensible to be quite honest.
"You see boats going out loaded to the max with no one wearing a lifejacket, so anything that stops that would be good.
"As far as I'm aware even the cheaper flotation devices are sufficient - anything is better than nothing."
His sentiments are echoed by the Reverend Iki Pope, who has been preaching the water safety message from his pulpits in Onehunga and Papatoetoe in an effort to improve an understanding of New Zealand conditions and rules to Pacific Islanders.
"I agree with it," he says.
"The sea is unpredictable, you don't know what's going to happen.
"There have been some tragedies that happened with under-15s dying and I presume it is because there were no lifejackets worn."
The keen fisherman says he puts his lifejacket on before leaving the house when he heads out to sea.
By the time it comes to launching a boat he has forgotten he is wearing it.
"There's no harm in wearing one, it's not annoying and I can be comfortable and at peace knowing that if anything happens I will be safe."
The bill is supported by Water Safety New Zealand, Maritime New Zealand and Coastguard New Zealand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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