High injury rate in the Sounds
ACC claims for water sports-related injuries in the region are trending above the New Zealand average, resulting in 1731 days of lost productivity in Marlborough.
Injuries during recreation and sports in Marlborough cost more than $4.3 million in ACC claims in 2012/2013, according to recent figures.
The Marlborough Sounds' popularity among recreational and adventure tourists contributed to the high number of water sports-related claims.
First aid trainer Nine Scott said the public needed to be more safety conscious on the water.
Scott is the franchise owner of Triple 1 Care and has trained police officers, firefighters, businesses, sports groups and families in first aid.
As a Picton-based diving instructor, volunteer firefighter and St John first aider, he has seen the full gamut of injuries.
Summer was the busiest time for the emergency services when the population of Picton exploded, he said. "At Christmas people coming down to the Sounds for recreation, many don't have the slightest idea of rules on the water or how to behave.
"I have seen people going at high speed on jet skis and those going out on smaller boats while intoxicated.
"They are not completely aware of what is going on in the water. Water is a socially hostile environment.
"A lot of people paddleboard in the Sounds but when ferries come past, I am always looking nervously to see if they have got out of the way in time."
He consistently saw injuries that could have been prevented.
Scott had dealt with broken bones as a result of jet ski accidents, injuries from boat propellers, seal bites, stingray and jellyfish stings to swimmers and fisherman that had cut themselves or suffered broken ankles after falling off rocks.
Scott said health and safety laws had been tightened, particularly around diving, with more robust guidelines around the introduction of supervisors for drivers, equipment maintenance and boat conditions.
"Some boaties take a responsible attitude and have a first aid kit. Some are totally unprepared for anything that can happen."
The introduction of auditing so adventure sports businesses were aware of health and safety risks had stepped up compliance but came with a price tag, he said.
"Auditing is a brilliant idea but is fantastically expensive for small outfits. It costs in the region of $10,000 over three years. People that run these businesses are responsible people. It is the cost of auditing that will kill them. I know people that have been run out of business in the Sounds."
Scott would prefer guidelines be enforced with inspection and a fine and a safety message.
"Be prepared because if it can go wrong, it will go wrong."
The Marlborough Express