Black says boating laws ineffective

Police speak to themen involved in Friday night’s incident where a boat crashed
into the Kawarau Bridge.
Police speak to themen involved in Friday night’s incident where a boat crashed into the Kawarau Bridge.

National legislative change is needed to stop drunken boaties getting into strife on waterways, Queenstown Lakes District Council harbourmaster Marty Black says.

Mr Black, a member of the National Pleasure Boat Strategy Forum for the southern region, called for Government action after an incident on the Kawarau River on Friday night.

The forum is reviewing the current safety provisions of maritime legislation, including alcohol consumption.

Drinking alcohol is not specifically covered by maritime legislation, or bylaws, although a Queenstown bylaw allows for an instant fine if a skipper is drunk and the Maritime Transport Act has provisions for endangerment and causing risk.

However, there is no standard of proof, test or level specified. Speaking to the Mirror, Mr Black said any specific provision for alcohol consumption by recreational boaties was a national legislative consideration.

So far this summer there was only one alcohol-related incident on Lake Wakatipu.

The trouble started when two men were drinking while driving a jet boat along the river but the boat ran into rocks by the Kawarau Falls Bridge just before 11pm.

A member of the public heard a crash by the bridge and saw the boat being pushed off a rock. The boat then hit another rock before finally being pushed off again and heading back downstream.

Mr Black was called out with a rescue helicopter. He found the boat with two men in it, 100 metres downstream from a bridge where their car and boat trailer were parked.

The boat was damaged but the men, both in their 20s, were unharmed.

The boat was equipped with flares, a radio and lifejackets, but both men had been drinking. Mr Black said police breath-tested the men in front of him, one blowing 690 micrograms per litre of breath and the other "very close to that".

About 15 minutes after police spoke to them, police stopped the vehicle and boat trailer which was being driven by one of the men who had been in the jet boat.

He failed a breath test and was processed for drink-driving. Sergeant Blair Duffy, of Queenstown, said a 28-year-old man was processed for drink-driving at 12.15am on Saturday on the Kingston highway.

Mr Black said local bylaws provided for a $500 instant fine for being in charge of a boat while intoxicated but there was no standard of proof indicated, and no test or level of intoxication specified. "If push came to shove, I don't think it would stand up in court," he said.

Under the Maritime Transport Act recreational boaties can be fined up to $10,000 or sentenced to up to 12 months' jail for causing unnecessary danger or risk to persons or property.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Steve Rendle said there was nothing specific related to recreational boaties and alcohol but prosecutions had been brought for endangerment or risk involving drinking.

The Mirror