Lifejackets not negotiable - ECan

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013
lifejackets
KEEPING SAFE: Boaties have been warned that spot fines will be issued for anyone out on the water without a lifejacket.

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Police will prosecute boaties for not wearing lifejackets at South Canterbury's popular recreational spots this summer.

Under Environment Canterbury's bylaws, everyone on board a boat smaller than 6 metres must wear a properly secured lifejacket.

ECan harbourmaster Jim Dilley said police could now issue "on the spot fines".

"The previous rules were overly complicated. ECan had to appoint each policeman as [an] 'honorary navigation safety officer', which was unnecessarily time-consuming," he said.

Recent changes to the Maritime Transport Act grant police direct powers to enforce regional councils' navigation safety rules.

Mr Dilley said the spot fines ranged from $150 to $500, but this did not preclude further action against people who repeatedly breached the rules.

"Our approach will mostly be educational, but safety on the water is paramount," he said.

Mr Dilley said ECan would patrol at lakes Tekapo, Ohau, Ruataniwha, and popular Waitaki lakeside spots from this weekend until January 11.

It would dedicate about six of its own staff towards enforcing the rules, but also hoped to add a reasonably large police presence.

"When we brought the police alongside us last year ... behaviour certainly improved," he said.

"People would suddenly grab their lifejackets, or, if they were drinking, they would get someone else to drive the boat instead."

Omarama's Constable Nayland Smith expected police to assist ECan over the summer. He said last year's experience of being honorary navigation safety officers had been positive.

Mr Smith said police will also patrol boat ramps to ensure people were not drinking before driving a boat.

"Drinking and driving is dangerous, whether your vehicle is on the road or out in the water," Mr Smith said.

Police will also have powers to fine people for not staying within the right zones, or not obeying the 5kmh speed limit on lakes Ruataniwha and Benmore.

Mr Dilley said it was essential to wear a lifejacket while on the water.

"Incidents happen quickly; people need to be prepared for all changes in weather," he said.

"You don't wait to put your seatbelt on, similarly you shouldn't wait to put your lifejacket on."

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