Government set to receive advice on lifejacket rules

Stuff 21 January 2015
Pressure is mounting on the Government to make lifejackets compulsory for recreational boaties after another drowning.

Police yesterday named Thomas Angove, 60, as the Waikawa Beach man who drowned on Saturday after a small vessel he and his 22-year-old boating partner were in flipped about 100 metres off Otaki Beach.

Angove did not appear to have been wearing a lifejacket. The younger man, who was, survived.

A chief criticism of lifejacket rules from water-safety lobby groups has been that there is not one rule for all.

Recreational boaties are legally required to carry enough approved lifejackets for everyone on board.

But local councils set their own bylaws, meaning rules setting who decides when boaties have to wear a lifejacket on pleasure craft – those measuring less than 6 metres – vary throughout the country.

The rules have been toughened in some parts, but councils have stopped short of enforcing mandatory lifejackets, because of public opposition.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council, which covers the region from the capital’s south coast to Otaki, has a 2009 bylaw requiring pleasure craft users to wear a lifejacket unless the skipper judges the conditions are not “risky” and specifically says they don’t have to wear one.

As part of Auckland Council’s Navigation Safety Bylaw which came into force at Labour Weekend last year, skippers of boats under 6m long are responsible for ensuring everyone on board wears a life vest. It is a requirement that passengers wear them unless the skipper determines the conditions are suitable for them to be taken off.

Police can prosecute skippers under the Maritime Transport Act in serious boating incidents.