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Auckland debates compulsory life jackets for sailors and other boaters

by Nancy Knudsen on 15 Jul 2013
Should his life jackets be compulsory in Auckland? BoatUS Press Room
Water Safety New Zealand says a proposal to make lifejackets compulsory in Auckland should become a national law, while the Libertarianz Party claim that 'the vast majority of boat owners are capable of enjoying themselves without interference from 'water safety busybodies'.

The Auckland Council is reviewing its lifejacket regulations and is considering making them compulsory at all times in boats under six metres long.

Water Safety New Zealand says of the 215 people who drowned after falling out of their boat in the past 20 years, 178 were not wearing a lifejacket.

Chief executive Matt Claridge said 49% of those killed were on boats less than four metres long.
Mr Claridge said the Government should consider making it compulsory to wear lifejackets throughout the country and education about water safety should also be a priority.

An Auckland Coastguard volunteer supports the move, saying New Zealand is still catching up when it comes to water safety.

Chris Laufale attended a fatal boat accident near the Mangere Bridge last year where a man and his seven-year-old son drowned. He is surprised wearing a lifejacket isn't compulsory and believes it's about time the law change was considered.

Public consultation on the proposed new bylaw in Auckland won't take place until mid-2014.

In the meantime, spokesman for the Libertarianz Party, Richard McGrath, this week quoted a 2007 report from a government agency, Maritime NZ, which claimed that as of 2006 there were 350,000 pleasure boats in New Zealand. He also cited statistics from another bureaucracy, Water Safety New Zealand, which stated 178 people without life jackets have drowned in boating accidents over the past 20 years.

'That is about nine jacketless boaties drowning annually. Combined with a conservative assumption of five outings a year by each boat owner, this is about one drowning every 190,000 outings.'

'To advocate prosecution of boat owners for not wearing life jackets is a completely over-the-top and unnecessary knee-jerk reaction, and smacks of bureaucrats desperately trying to justify their jobs.'

Libertarianz responded to ' the outrageous demands of the Water Safety Commissariat' with a proposal of its own - that the offices of Water Safety NZ, and Maritime NZ, be dissolved immediately.

'For the number of pleasure craft in this country, the number of fatalities while boating is incredibly low,' said Dr McGrath. 'The overwhelming majority of boaties are already acting responsibly, as the facts show. The continued existence of Water Safety NZ is a scandalous waste of taxpayer money.'
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