12 Feb 2014

Move to make lifejackets compulsory

9:08 pm on 12 February 2014

The Auckland Council is changing the region's boating bylaw to make the wearing of lifejackets compulsory on small boats.

Wearing lifejackets on small boats is likely to be compulsory in the Auckland region from next summer.

Wearing lifejackets on small boats is likely to be compulsory in the Auckland region from next summer. Photo: PHOTO NZ FILE

A council spokesperson said 12 of the 19 victims of boating-related deaths in Auckland in the past five years had lifejackets available but were not wearing them.

As well as compulsory lifejackets on vessels six metres long or less, carrying a communication device will be mandatory and the harbourmaster will be able to stop anyone being in charge of a vessel while intoxicated.

Harbourmaster Andrew Hayton said the proposed changes were developed in response to community concerns.

"They look at the headlines - someone's drowned - and people are asking themselves 'how can we stop this happening, it's a big cost to our society, what can we do to stop these tragedies happening. There has been a big push from certain parts of the community for the council to actually take action."

Kite, sail or paddle boarders wearing wetsuits and people below deck while a boat was anchored would not have to wear a lifejacket, Mr Hayton said.

Mike Cahill, of the Hibiscus Coast Boating Club, said it supports the wearing of lifejackets as a safety precaution, but disagrees with making it mandatory on small boats and doesn't think a bylaw would reduce the number of drownings.

Mr Cahill said the policy is poorly drafted and out of step with neighbouring regions and national bodies. The club will make a submission and is encouraging other boaties to do so.

People have until March to have their say on the proposal and the changes could be in place by next summer.