Holiday boating behaviour raises few concerns

Three boating infringements worth a total of $1500 were issued on Upper Clutha waterways during the Christmas-New Year holiday period.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council’s new harbourmaster contractor, Cougar Group, finished its first peak holiday enforcement period on Monday satisfied overall with boating behaviour.

The security company won the contract in July.

The new waterways regime means longstanding former harbourmasters Marty Black and Dave Black (Queenstown) and Craig Blake (Wanaka) no longer have their jobs.

A part-time Wanaka harbourmaster, Jeff Donaldson, transferred to Cougar but resigned in November, citing safety concerns.

That prompted Coastguard Wanaka Lakes and the commercial boating community to voice concerns about whether there would be a qualified, experienced harbourmaster in Wanaka during the busy season.

They were also concerned about a communication systems change. The council is now the first point of call for complaints.

Deputy harbourmaster Ricky Campbell, of Cougar Group, said overall behaviour on Upper Clutha water had been good.

There had been 33 requests for service from the public, some of which were referred on to other agencies.

Council communications spokesman Sam White said after reviewing all instances of non-compliance, two tickets were issued for using a powered vessel on the Clutha River during a prohibited period and one ticket was issued for exceeding 5 knots within 50m of another vessel on Lake Wanaka.

Several people posted on social media pages about seeing boats and jet skis on the prohibited area of the Clutha River between the Outlet and the Albert Town bridge.

Mr White said the harbourmasters observed low use of powered vessels on that stretch of the Clutha River over the peak period, but did issue two tickets.

Life jacket compliance had been "very high", he said.

"No infringements were considered necessary over the peak period, but waterways officers have been actively educating people, including paddle boarders and those floating on blow-up devices, that life jackets are mandatory on all vessels under 6m.

"The speed of vessels has been a focus for waterways officers over the summer. Again, they have been actively educating boaties and one infringement has been issued," Mr White said.

Request for service issues had been followed up as required and in some cases resulted in additional targeted patrols.

Given the high use of waterways over the holidays, the total number of complaints had been in keeping with expectations and the public had been generally positive and vigilant, he said.

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