A push by Auckland Council to make the wearing of lifejackets
compulsory on small boats is another case of "Nanny State"
and will not reduce the number of drownings, a boating club
The rules will have unexpected consequences like the smacking
bill, compulsory bicycle helmets and paddling pool fencing,
the 400-strong Hibiscus Coast Boating Club said in a
submission on a new lifejacket bylaw.
Today the council's regulatory and bylaw committee will
consider replacing the current rules for boats to carry
lifejackets with a new bylaw requiring compulsory wearing of
lifejackets on boats less than 6m at all times, with some
exceptions. The committee will make a recommendation to the
full council before the proposed bylaw goes out for public
comment next year.
The drive has come from two South Auckland local body
politicians - former Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board member
Tunumafono Ava Fa'amoe and Manukau ward councillor Alf
Filipaina - who say too many people are drowning in accidents
involving small craft.
Mr Filipaina, who is also a Counties-Manukau police Pacific
liaison officer, was called to Mangere Bridge in May last
year when So'saia Paasi and his 7-year-old son, Tio, drowned
when a dinghy capsized. Three other children were rescued
from the cold current.
Watersafe Auckland chief executive Sandra Harrop and Auckland
Westpac Rescue Helicopter paramedic Karl Taylor, who helped
during the Mangere Bridge tragedy, support measures to make
the wearing of lifejackets compulsory.
"If everyone was wearing lifejackets that day [at Mangere
Bridge], they potentially could still be alive," Mr Taylor
Ms Harrop said the "changing face of Auckland was reflected
in drowning statistics", showing 19 boating-related drownings
in the five years from 2008 to 2012.
But the proposed bylaw is strongly opposed by boaties,
including the Auckland Yachting and Boating Association,
which represents 17,000 members in the region's yacht clubs.
Association spokesman Richard Brown said it was unreasonable
to cover all types of small boats, at all times and in all
sea conditions and urged the council not to introduce a
"rushed, albeit well-meaning, bylaw which will have little
There are 100,000 boaties in the Auckland region.
Hibiscus Bays Boating Club spokesman Mike Cahill said despite
a number of highlighted drownings in Auckland, the city had
one of the lowest per capita rates of boating-related
The bylaw, he said, would not reduce the number of drownings,
just increase the number of boaties breaking the law while
actually boating safely and responsibly.
The club's submission said a more effective and efficient way
of reaching the target group of new immigrants about safety
issues would be through a boat ramp campaign.
Boats could be checked for safety equipment, overloading,
compliance and navigation bylaw knowledge.
The club has criticised the compulsory wearing of lifejackets
in boats of 6m or less, saying the council's case is not
backed up with proof.
Of the five drownings in 2012, four were in boats under 4.9m
made of lightweight aluminum, the club's submission said,
adding it would accept the rule applying to boats under 4.8m.
Other councils around the country have already introduced
stricter bylaws, including Auckland's two neighbouring
councils, the Northland and Waikato Regional Councils.
In Northland and Waikato, lifejackets must be worn on
non-motorised vehicles under 6m when under way, although in
Northland the skipper can give permission for them not to be
The Auckland bylaw would be overseen by the harbourmaster,
who patrols the region's harbours and coast.
- Bernard Orsman of the New Zealand Herald