Navigation Safety Bylaw breaches investigated

There are a wealth of activities and sports that you can do on Canterbury's waterways year round. Whether you're jet skiing, kayaking, sailing or stand up paddle boarding, the Harbourmaster's Office wants all recreational boaties to get home safe.

Part of being safe out on the water is knowing your personal obligations. Regional bylaws exist to ensure the safety of all water users and to reduce conflicts between the different water-based activities in an area. Bylaws apply whether you are on a lake, river or the sea and regardless of whether you are swimming, jet skiing, kayaking or taking part in any other water activities.

In Canterbury, the bylaws are regulated by us, with recreational boating activities overseen by the Harbourmaster's Office

Since mid-May, several bylaw breaches have been observed that compromised not only individuals own safety, but that of others on the water.

Recent bylaw breaches

Man tries to tow boat after running out of petrol

On Sunday 7 June 2020 at 1.28pm, the Sumner Lifeboat was called to assist three people in an inflatable boat 100 metres off Boulder Bay, near Sumner.

The motor on the boat ran out of petrol and one of the three people was trying to swim to shore towing the boat behind him. None of the three were wearing lifejackets and there were no lifejackets in the boat in direct contravention of the Navigation Safety Bylaw 2016.

Gordon McKay, Navigation Safety Officer for the Harbourmaster's Office, pulled no punches in his response stating that "behaviour like this is idiotic. It puts the lives of the people on board at risk, and wastes emergency services' time. We will be following up with the three people concerned."

Jet skis in the Reserved Area at Sumner Bay

In Sumner Bay, the Harbourmaster's Office has also observed numerous instances of unlawful activity including jet skis jumping waves and towing in foiling surf boards within the Reserved Area. Ten reports of such behaviour since the reduction to Alert Level 2 are currently being looked into by the Harbourmaster's Office.

"Jet skis entering the Reserved Areas of Sumner Bay are of significant concern to us from a safety perspective. This area is dedicated specifically to swimmers, windsurfers, kitesurfers and the like; power-driven vessels are prohibited," McKay said.

Particularly concerning is the transit of the Reserved Area from the Sumner Lifeboat Station boat ramp. No power boating is permitted from the beach out to 400m where the reserved area ends, unless transiting directly from or to the nearest point outside the reserved area.

“Another issue we are concerned about is speed," McKay said. "Speed should normally be kept below 5 knots when transiting the Reserved Area to or from the boat ramp."

Skippers need to be up to speed with the rules

Potential consequences include a fine of up to $100 for failing to wear a lifejacket and up to $1000 in fines for a skipper who is prosecuted.

Any person acting as a skipper - the nominated individual in charge of a recreational craft - must clearly understand their responsibility to ensure they have personal flotation devices for each person on board, and that the flotation device is worn at times of risk. Not wearing a lifejacket is the leading cause of recreational boating deaths in New Zealand, many of which are preventable.

"Sadly, no one is faster than disaster. All boaties need to know and follow the rules as they are there to save lives," McKay said.

If in doubt about what your responsibilities are as a skipper, do a 'day skipper' course, which can be completed online or by attending a two-day training course. If you are using a VHF radio, you require a Radio Operator Certificate of Competency. If you have not completed this, then you may use the VHF only for emergency calls.

Find out more about boating courses from Coastguard Boating Education.

More information

Find out more about personal flotation devices (p7), the definition of the person in charge of a vessel (p7) and the Sumner Bay Reserved Area (p39) in the Navigation Safety Bylaw 2016, which also includes general recreational boating tips.

Do remember that in New Zealand we are governed by regional bylaws, so if you're planning to undertake any activities or sports on waterways outside of Canterbury make sure you're aware of the bylaws of that local area and get home safe.