Simmonds' bill to address drinking and boating

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds. Photo: Luisa Girao
Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds. Photo: Luisa Girao
Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds is drafting a member's bill to promote legislation prohibiting people from operating recreational boats while impaired by alcohol.

Her announcement today comes after a coroner's report into the death of Southland man Shane David Gibbon was released yesterday.

Mr Gibbons was a passenger on a boat driven by Paul Turner when it hit a gravel bar on the Hollyford River in March 2019.

Mr Turner had a blood sample taken on the morning after the crash which contained 74mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

ESR estimated his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash would have been between 130mg and 195mg per 100ml of blood.

The legal limit for driving on the road is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

At the time of the accident, Mr Turner reported that he did not feel intoxicated.

In her findings, Coroner Sue Johnson recommended the Ministry of Transport investigate introducing legislation or rules around boaties consuming alcohol or drugs.

The ministry responded to the recommendation, advising that the law already allowed for conviction of someone who operated any vessel in a dangerous manner.

Coroner Johnson said current legislation did not give an alcohol limit as a guide so people would know when they were illegally operating a recreational vessel.

‘‘I agree with TAIC (Transport Accident Investigation Commission) that having no legislation or rules specifically to prohibit people operating recreational vessels being impaired by alcohol or drugs is a safety issue.

‘‘And I agree with TAIC that Mr Gibbons’ death highlights the ongoing risk of not implementing safety actions to address its recommendation.’’

Ms Simmonds said she supported the call for the introduction of legislation.

“I am currently drafting a private member's bill on this issue and support a similar call from the coroner, in the wake of a boating tragedy on the Hollyford River in March 2019.

“Too many lives have been lost and too many families left in despair as a result of boating accidents."

Ms Simmonds said she had been listening to the pleas of another Southland boating widow, who reiterated concerns about the culture of drinking and boating.

“As recreational craft get faster and more powerful, and boating grows in popularity, I think the time is right to have a closer look at the regulations and safety rules around water activities and alcohol.

“None of us would imagine drinking and then getting behind the wheel of a car and yet it’s commonplace for those in boats to consume alcohol and then head out on to the lake or the river.

“I think it’s time for the Transport Ministry to review this issue, with my member’s bill promoting changes in the law around people impaired by alcohol from operating recreational boats.”

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