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Lifejackets, dive flag and speed reminder for boaties

Date: 17 December, 2013

Lifejackets, dive flag and speed reminder for boaties

People heading out on the water in Northland over the busy summer season are being urged to wear their lifejackets, keep their speed down and make sure they fly a dive flag if they have divers in the water.

Chidambaram Surendran, the Northland Regional Council’s Deputy Harbourmaster, says the Christmas/New Year period is an especially busy one in and around Northland coast, one of New Zealand’s largest.

He says while following a few simple rules can help keep people safe on, or in, the water, that message does not always get through and puts people at unnecessary risk every summer.

“While some years can be worse than others, failure to use dive flags, or not using them properly, is a common problem for us in Northland. Last year was especially bad, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this issue over summer, including issuing $200 infringement notices if necessary.”

Mr Surendran says skippers are often forced to take evasive action to avoid divers because flags are nowhere to be seen or dive boats are not near their divers.

“It’s absolutely vital for everyone’s safety that it’s clearly signalled whenever divers are in the water. Divers face a very real risk of serious injury or even being killed if they’re hit by other boats, especially if these vessels are travelling quickly.

He says under Northland Regional Council bylaws, a dive flag must be displayed so it’s clearly visible from another vessel 200 metres away.

“The blue and white flag needs to be at least 60cm by 60cm in size and divers have a responsibility to ensure it is flying before they enter the water.”

The dive boat must also be within 200 metres of divers at all times and be prepared to help quickly if needed. “Divers too have an equal role to play in ensuring they stay aware of their position and within 200 metres of their boat.”

Mr Surendran says other vessels should keep a good lookout for divers and not exceed five knots within 50 metres of another vessel or person in the water or within 200 metres of the shore/a vessel flying a dive flag.

Similarly, Mr Surendran says the council urges people to take – and make sure they wear – lifejackets.

“A lifejacket of appropriate size and type must be carried for every person on board. On vessels less than six metres long, lifejackets must be worn unless the skipper has decided this isn’t necessary, but such a decision should not be made lightly as the skipper is legally responsible for the safety of people on the vessel.”

He says when risk increases, such as crossing a bar, in bad weather or at night, lifejackets must be worn.

“If in doubt, wear the lifejacket; there’s very little time to put it on, or even find your lifejacket, when an emergency occurs.”

Mr Surendran says it’s also important for people – especially those who aren’t out on the water very often – to make sure they’re familiar with the instructions on how to properly wear and operate lifejackets.

Other things people could do to make things safer were to ensure their boats are well maintained and serviced, especially if they have been unused over the winter.

“Avoiding alcohol, checking the weather forecast, letting someone know where you are going and ensuring you have two means of communications on board in case something goes wrong (for instance a marine radio and a cellphone) all make for safer boating.”

Lastly, he urged people to make sure they were not:

• Taking off or arriving at boat ramps or wharves at high speed

• Leaving a wake large enough to annoy other water users or put them at risk

• Waterskiing or jetskiing among swimmers.

Mr Surendran says information and tips on how to stay safe on the water in Northland is available from the regional council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/safeboating


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