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Live bar feeds could help save lives

Live images from three new cameras will help boaties make better decisions before attempting to cross dangerous bars, says Waikato Regional Council.

The three bar cameras have been installed by the council’s harbourmasters at Port Waikato, Raglan and Kāwhia. There has already been a live feed available for Tairua.

“Crossing a bar is a high risk activity for even the most experienced boatie,” said the council’s maritime services team leader Richard Barnett. “A responsible skipper is well prepared and makes informed decisions before heading out.

“Around New Zealand, there have been a number of deaths in recent years caused when boaties have attempted to cross dangerous bars at the mouths of our harbours.

“There are many causes, but one of them is a lack of information about the conditions of the bar before setting out,” Mr Barnett said.

So the council’s harbourmasters carried out safety audits for Port Waikato and Raglan harbours, and consulted with key stakeholders including Waiuku Coastguard, Raglan Coastguard, Counties Fishing Club, Raglan Sport fishing club and Waikato Sport fishing Club.

“It was unanimously agreed that bar cameras would help the public assess and make a better informed decisions before attempting a bar crossing,” Mr Barnett said.

The project, which has cost $17,500, was made possible through the help of the Waikato Regional Council Innovation Fund and Vodafone.

The cameras are independently powered by a solar battery and send out a refreshed image every minute via the Vodafone Wireless Network.

Mr Barnett said the cameras will also aid in the rescue of any capsized boat by providing up-to-date real-time positions of where the vessel and its occupants are. “This will reduce the search time in potentially dangerous conditions.”

In the case of Raglan, which has jet skis as rescue vessels, the cameras can help responders decide which unit is best to use.

The availability of the live feeds come just ahead of the traditional start of the boating season, Labour Weekend, and as Safer Boating Week kicks off.

All images are available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/safe-bar-crossings. Also on that webpage are bar crossing videos for Raglan and Tairua in the Waikato region, and Bowentown and Kaituna (Maketu) in the Bay of Plenty.

Important bar crossing safety guidelines to follow

• Check the weather within 12 hours of your boating trip.
• Check the tide – always avoid low tide.
• Talk to a local about the bar conditions.
• Tie down any loose objects, such as the anchor and ropes.
• Everyone must wear a lifejacket.
• Contact Coastguard on VHF immediately before you cross and when you’ve successfully completed your crossing.
• Avoid ebb or falling tides (between high tide and low tide, when water flows away from the shore).
• Always go out with an experienced skipper prior to attempting the crossing yourself.
• If in doubt, don't go out!

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