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The Queenstown harbourmaster’s stand on paddleboarding safety is not supported elsewhere in New Zealand or the world, Maritime New Zealand says.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council is consulting on changes to its navigation safety bylaw, including a ban on so-called life jacket pouches, a style of portable flotation device (PFD).
Seven of nine submissions to the review oppose the ban, saying devices on an approved list by Maritime New Zealand and New Zealand Stand Up Paddling Inc should be allowed.
Papers for a hearing in Queenstown yesterday reveal a terse email exchange between harbourmaster Marty Black and Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) deputy director Lindsay Sturt in April.
Mr Black said it was "extremely disappointing" the council’s stance on bum bag life jackets for stand-up paddleboarders was not supported by the Safer Boating Forum.
He said coroner Gordon Matenga’s comments regarding the death last year of paddleboarder Amie Russell in Whangamata Harbour "endorsed" the stand.
In his reply two days later, Mr Sturt said the stance was not supported because forum members did not believe the risks were "as significant as you believe".
Also, the risks had to be balanced against a ‘‘pragmatic appreciation’’ that many paddleboarders would be unwilling to wear other types of flotation devices.
"The forum’s response was not surprising, given that there does not appear to be support for your approach elsewhere in New Zealand or internationally."
Mr Sturt took issue with the coroner’s comments being an endorsement.
Mr Matenga said the belt-style life jacket met MNZ requirements and paddleboarders should wear a style of PFD appropriate to their activity.Ms Russell (17) died after her leg rope became stuck around a boat’s keel.
Mr Sturt said he was unaware of any paddleboarding deaths caused by difficulty in deploying a bum bag device.
MNZ’s official submission, lodged earlier this month, said a ban on life jacket pouches was not justified — a view backed by the Safer Boating Forum.
Bylaw review submitter Paul van der Kaag has been paddleboarding on Queenstown lakes for six years.
He told the Otago Daily Times he often paddled from Kelvin Heights to Hidden Island and back wearing shorts and a belt pouch PFD, while also carrying food and his phone.
As long as rules were followed, paddlers should wear what they were comfortable with, he said.
"I don’t think we should be all lumped into the worst-swimmer, roughest-weather scenario."
He added: "We let people climb Ben Lomond all summer long — Asians with jandals and no food, no water, no jackets — no-one’s policing that."
Meanwhile, a change to the bylaw requiring children under 10 to wear life jackets on pleasure craft over 6m in length was supported by MNZ.
The hearing panel’s recommendations will be made to the full council.