Boaties in Marlborough are being slapped with $200 fines as maritime authorities catch them out with laser speed guns.
The council and the coastguard have now got the technology to actually enforce the rule that so many ignore, which is that you’re supposed to travel no faster than 5 knots when you’re within 200 metres of the shore.
But that would by no means be the only rule boaties ignore when out on the water. Or maybe it’s not that they’re ignoring them, but that they don’t know them in the first place.
I find it extraordinary that you require NO training, NO license and can basically get out on the water with ZERO knowledge of what the rules are. That needs to change. I'm pretty sure you can even drink and drive a boat and get away with it. If so, that definitely needs to change.
Just a few days ago, three boaties were left clinging to their chilly bin after their boat sank in the Hauraki Gulf. By the looks of the size of their boat, under six metres, they should have been wearing lifejackets. It's not even clear they were carrying them on board, which you must do by law.
I was out on a friend’s boat in the Hauraki Gulf a few weeks back and I kept pestering him with questions: what does a buoy that colour mean, what’s the speed limit here, what do you do when you come across a ship, what about a sail boat? There’s actually a lot to learn. There aren't road signs and white painted lines, and the consequences for stuffing it up can be serious. It’s also a little difficult to call the AA or get your Mum to come and pick you up when you’re out at sea - it’s relatively high-risk stuff.
When you’re in the water, and there are lots of boats on the water, those risks are even greater. I learned to water ski with my friends’ family when I was growing up and I can attest to the fact that many, MANY people either don’t know the rules or blithely ignore them. When you’re a learner on a wakeboard and you spend a fair bit of time going face first into the water, it can be terrifying to see the other boats whizz past so close to you at speed.
Of course, policing the water is a lot more difficult than the roads because, for a start, there is just so much coastline, so many lakes and rivers, that we could never finance a sufficient force to police the risks, which are surely at least equal to those when you are driving on the road.
But I don't see why we can't toughen up the rules - in fact, to me, it seems crazy that we haven't done that before now. Perhaps we could require boaties to do a Coastguard course before they can legally own a boat, or you must have someone on board who has done one.
Speed guns wielded from the shore just seem woefully inadequate when we let anyone out there on the water without a clue what they’re doing.