Harbouring plans for safety and education

Otago Regional Council harbourmaster Steve Rushbrook sits at the Otago Yacht Club. PHOTO: STEPHEN...
Otago Regional Council harbourmaster Steve Rushbrook sits at the Otago Yacht Club. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
One year ago the Otago Regional Council’s first full-time harbourmaster stepped into the role. Reporter Jono Edwards speaks to Steve Rushbrook about laying the groundwork to improve safety in the region’s waters.

Steve Rushbrook went from mine hunting in the Royal Navy to a role in Dunedin with no boat and no real way to enforce rules.

He has spent the last year trying to change that.

Before he started, harbourmaster duties were performed in-house by the Otago Regional Council and Port Otago.

Much of Mr Rushbrook's first year has been dedicated to developing the role to make it easier to encourage water safety with both education and enforcement.

"It's the challenge of picking that up and filling the void 26 years in the making of not having the role.''

One of these projects has been updating harbour bylaws so rules can be enforced.

The major targets will be wearing and carrying lifejackets, as well as speed on the water.

He has also been pushing for legislation on a national level to tackle drinking while operating vessels.

The council had also tendered for a boat, which he expected to have in the new year.

"Someone like me would rather be on the water rather than in the office. That's a bit of a no-brainer.''

The vessel would give more of a profile to the role and help to enforce rules, he said.

Mr Rushbrook has also been busy making Otago compliant with the New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code.

Once everything was in place, the role of a harbourmaster would be too much for one person, he said.

Therefore, the council is in the early stages of creating a deputy harbourmaster role, which he expected to be filled within the next year.

From time to time Mr Rushbrook was faced with unusual tasks.

Recently he was involved with the Rotary Club of Dunedin's charity duck race and occasionally the public called in interesting incidents.

"I had a report this week which made me smile, of a model aircraft which crashed into the harbour.''

Thankfully, no further action was required.

One of the first-year successes was incorporating Otago in Maritime New Zealand's ``No Excuses'' campaign which targeted lifejacket wearing and speeding.

Mr Rushbrook was perhaps used to busier waters, having worked for the Port of London for 24 years.

Before that he was in the Royal Navy for almost 10 years, specialising in mine warfare, including during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

Dunedin was a different pace.

"The number of vessels in the water here aren't huge.

"Most people are pretty good.

"There are one or two areas that need a bit of education, but mostly they are pretty understanding of people's needs on the water.''



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