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Summer Boating Safety Key Focus Of Operation Neptune

With thousands of people expected to take to the water this summer, Waikato Regional Council maritime officers will be highly visible to promote boating safety.

“Operation Neptune is about providing a proactive presence on the water, with the emphasis on boating safety,” says Waikato Regional Harbourmaster, Chris Bredenbeck.

“We’ll be looking closely at whether boaties are following the rules including around personal flotation devices (PFDs), speed limits and the need for towing with an observer in place.

“For example, people on vessels up to six metres need to wear their PFDs while the vessel is underway. Larger vessels are required to have a PFD for each person onboard but they’re only required to be worn under certain circumstances. This is a different rule to some other regions.”

Boating rules are prominently displayed on signage at boat ramps around the Waikato, on Waikato Regional Council’s website and the MarineMate app. In addition, a multi-media public information campaign will promote Operation Neptune throughout the summer with the key message of ‘come home safe’.

“We have some of New Zealand’s most popular coastline as well as inland waterways, and we want people to enjoy them. Boat skippers are encouraged to review the boating rules before they take to the water, helping to keep themselves and others safe,” says Mr Bredenbeck.

“Enforcement of these rules is a key part of Operation Neptune. Education ends at the boat ramp. It’s the skipper’s responsibility to ensure they know the rules and comply with them on the water.”

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Waikato Regional Council maritime officers on patrol can issue breach notices that can lead to fines of up to $200 per offence.

Last summer, Operation Neptune staff issued 131 infringement notices, 27 formal warnings and 24 verbal warnings.

The annual Operation Neptune programme will run for about three weeks during the summer boating peak between Boxing Day and 14 January 2024, covering popular coastal, lake and river boating areas across the Waikato region. This includes Raglan and Kāwhia in the west, the entire Coromandel Peninsula, along with the Waikato River from Port Waikato through to Lake Karāpiro and Lake Arapuni down to Lake Ōhakuri.

For the three weeks of Operation Neptune, the council’s year-round maritime services team will be boosted by about 25 staff from other parts of the organisation. Staff will be deployed on nine council-branded vessels – featuring flashing lights and sirens or horns – which range in size from jetskis to a seven-metre boat.

Boating rules and safety information is available at

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