7 Jan 2009

Speeding boats long a problem - Lake Taupo resident

4:27 pm on 7 January 2009

Too many boat and jetski riders on Lake Taupo are ignoring speed limits close to shore, says one of the town's residents.

Nine-year-old Genevieve Lewis of Eketahuna died on Tuesday after she fell off her waterskis near Two Mile Bay and was run over by a boat as her parents tried to reach her in their boat.

Roger Dalziell, who lives by the lake, says he has seen numerous boats travelling at considerable speed near the lake edge, often close to where people have been swimming.

Mr Dalziell says a lot of boats are travelling too close to others on the lake and some are not using lights after dark.

Police say their inquiries are nearly finished and their focus will shift to analysing information from witnesses and researching the outcome of previous similar accidents.

Detective Senior Sergeant Todd Pearce says police are still interested in hearing from anyone who saw the accident.

A Maritime Safety investigation will also begin on Wednesday.

The driver of the boat that struck Genevieve has been interviewed by the police. They say it is too early to tell whether criminal charges will be laid.

Taupo harbourmaster Phillip King says he is worried that more people may be killed on the busy lake.

Mr King says the lake has been very busy this summer, with as many as 1,000 boats sometimes on the water at any one time.

He says patrols have been increased this year, but staff have had to speak to a lot of people about speeding on the water.

Call for limit

Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand says setting a maximum blood-alcohol limit for boaties would help limit the number of fatalities on the water.

A review by the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum in 2007 identified alcohol to be a factor in 18% of all recreational water deaths.

Police say Loielu Faiao, 33, had been been drinking heavily when he fell from a boat in the Bottle Top Bay area, near Papakura, at the weekend and died.

Another boatie was rescued early on New Year's Day after his dinghy sank in the Tamaki River, east of Auckland. He is believed to have been drinking.

Lindsay Sturt from Maritime New Zealand says alcohol significantly affects people's ability to survive in the water.