Boaties setting off distress flares for fun in Torrent Bay on the Abel Tasman National Park coastline last night prompted a marine alert - and a telling off.
Police were called about 10.30pm by someone who had seen the flares from an Atawhai hillside and Maritime Radio broadcast alerts.
Maritime New Zealand said another boat in the area, Misty Dawn, responded and checked several boats moored together. People on one admitted firing a flare and confirmed they were not in distress.
People on a second boat did not admit firing a flare, police said.
Inspector Brian McGurk of Nelson police said it was confirmed that the flares came from two boats tied together which were reported to be "party boats". One was a Christchurch trailer-sailer, the H2Go, the other was a commercial boat, Otoroa.
"They were given a serve by the boat that went across. The law of the sea is that the nearest vessel responds."
Mr McGurk said firing the flares was "a foolhardy act that probably seemed like a good idea at the time" but had activated a response.
"We were fortunate that it was a warm clear evening."
He understood the two boats were still in Torrent Bay and he did not want to comment on any followup action by police.
Tasman District Council harbourmaster Steve Hainstock said he hoped the culprits were punished.
Mr Hainstock said he was called out early on New Year's Day to investigate a reported flare sighting, which meant he had to cancel a boating safety patrol scheduled for daylight hours.
A flare fired for fun had also started an onshore fire in the Torrent Bay area several years ago, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News