Police target boaties over Christmas holidays

Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
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Police will lift their presence at the Waitaki lakes over the Christmas holidays, and might even breath-test boaties.

Oamaru detective Warren Duncan said he would be joined by policemen from Kurow, Otematata and Omarama over the summer as "honorary navigation safety officers".

Mr Duncan said although the majority of boaties were responsible, some people still did not follow the region's bylaws.

This included the compulsory wearing of life-jackets on small boats, sticking to the recreational zones of the lakes, and obeying the speed limit.

"A lot of people don't know it, but there can be hefty fines for disobeying these rules," Mr Duncan said.

"Environment Canterbury's bylaws go a step further than the maritime laws; a skipper caught without their lifejacket can be fined up to $300."

Six police officers will be working the main campsites near lakes Benmore, Ruataniwha and Aviemore on rotation.

Mr Duncan said the police would also be checking skippers at the boat ramps for alcohol. "If you're the skipper you shouldn't be consuming alcohol at all, the two shouldn't go together."

Although the Maritime Safety Act does not have any laws specifically prohibiting skippers consuming alcohol on boats, there are laws regarding safety and responsibility. Boaties can also be charged with disobeying the speed limits.

However, Mr Duncan said police could breath-test people who get into their car to tow the boat.

Environment Canterbury recreational boating officer Evan Walker said this was the first time he could remember the regional council and the police taking this combined approach.

"Anything that helps us get the water-safety message out there over summer helps.

"We usually have an enthusiastic team of about two to four volunteers over the summer, but having the police involved could lead to some much more careful boaties," he said.

Mr Duncan said the police officers would mostly educate holiday-makers, and would distribute pamplets informing people about the rules.

"It's a holiday period, we don't want to detract from the friendly environment. Enforcement will be our last resort," Mr Duncan said.

The police will assist ECan from Boxing Day to January 4.

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- The Timaru Herald

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