Police push boat out on extra powers

Police want extra powers to board and take control of boats to deal with any waterborne threats from protesters or overeager spectators during this year's World Rowing Championships on Lake Karapiro.

They have asked Environment Waikato, which has responsibility for regional navigation safety, to make an application to Transport Minister Steven Joyce to declare the championships a "major maritime event" and trigger additional enforcement powers.

Environment Waikato group manager compliance and education Rob Dragten said the application was about keeping spectators and participants safe, and was "reflecting the fact that it's a huge international event".

"This process provides a really clear set of powers for management of the public's access into a large event. It gives police the ability to board a vessel and take control of it if they need to – troublemakers for instance."

Police Maritime Unit Senior Sergeant Martin Paget said the application needed to be seen in context.

"It's not about police with knives in their teeth climbing out of the water on to boats.

"You have to be prepared for that one individual who's prepared to put his own requirements ahead of everyone else's," he said.

The application was part of general planning for the event and not in response to a specific threat, he said.

The maritime unit was expected to have a boat on the water to support land-based police at the event.

"Determined action by protesters, or people wanting a closer look, have significant risk of disrupting the event, and police need the power to prevent unauthorised people from entering the venue on the water," a council report said.

"The issue of greatest concern is disruption of the event by members of the public making their way into an area of the lake reserved for the event."

The powers would allow police to effectively deal with intrusions.

Waikato Times