Wharf may close to stop dive-bombers

By NATALIE BRIDGES


Mount Maunganui's Salisbury Wharf may be closed to the public if new entrance gates being put up this week don't stop swimmers jumping off it.
Environment Bay of Plenty maritime manager Jon Moore said people persistently using the wharf as a diving platform were seriously endangering their lives.
They have also been causing misery and havoc for commercial users and tourists.
"These kids are intimidating the people visiting the area. They use bad language, spit at people and try and splash people who have brought their children on to the wharf to have a look. They are causing danger to themselves and harassing our locals and visitors."
There have been no serious injuries at the wharf yet but unless people stopped jumping and swimming around it, someone could be killed, said Mr Moore.
"It is getting worse and something has to be done. Shocking injuries can be caused by propellers, they can injure and they can kill. It will rip you to pieces."
The wharf will have two new off-set gates at the entrance and improved signage attached that officials hope will make dive-bombers think twice.
Signs that surround the wharf spell out the bylaw stating that it is an offence to swim or dive within 50 metres of any bridge or wharf structure within the Bay of Plenty.
There is a $100 fine for anyone caught breaking that bylaw.
However, people of all ages continue to jump, said Mr Moore, because the rules and penalty were hard to enforce and there were not enough resources to patrol the bridge.
"We don't know how to enforce it and if anyone else does they can come and tell me. It's very difficult to stop because they're minors and while there is an infringement, how do we impose a $100 fine on a minor? There are two of us to cover the whole area, so we can't stand there all day."
Mr Moore believed parents needed to play a greater role in controlling their children and stopping them from using the wharf as a diving board.
Senior Property Consultant for Tauranga City Council, John Budden, hoped the two new gates would deter troublemakers.
One sign will announce the area is a ferry and chartered wharf and the other will highlight that people are not supposed to be jumping or diving within 50 metres of the wharf.
If the gates did not stop the problem, closing the wharf altogether would be seriously considered.
"We will have to review with the police and the harbourmaster to see what we can do to stop the silly behaviour, it will depend on the use of those gates.

Closing is a possibility if it doesn't work."
The new measures, which were expected to be in place by the end of the week, were a joint venture between the council and Environment Bay of Plenty.
Mr Budden said signage in the past had been ripped off and thrown in the tide or vandalised, so an effort to make the new signage strong and vandal proof had been made.
He said that although the council owned the structure, it was only the harbourmaster who held the authority to enforce the bylaw.
Mr Budden said officials were also trying to protect the well-being of fishermen, tourists, commercial users and locals.
Some users have already suffered personal damage as a result of being splashed by divers said Mr Budden.
"They have damaged the personal property of people on the wharf _ an Eftpos machine on one of the boats and an electric wheelchair."
Senior Constable Geoff Hutchins agreed that closing the wharf may be the next step.
"Youths [are] jumping between the boats and climbing on to the boats _ but they are also jumping by the propellers while they are rotating. A couple of operators have had to shut their motors off to try to stop the propellers from chopping up people. The culprits have also been using ``bully tactics and intimidation''."
Mark Hemmingway, member of the fishing club and a regular user of the wharf, said thousands of dollars of damage had been done to fishing equipment as a result of the divers' splashing.
Wayne Cromb, president of the Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club and director of the Mount Ocean Sports Club, feared the gates were the first stage of total closure of the wharf.
He said such a move would deny the people of Tauranga access to a piece of their heritage and history.
But youths who regularly use the wharf as a springboard are determined to continue _ and don't see anything wrong with their actions.
A teenager from Matua said he was not fazed by the $100 fine notice already displayed around the wharf. He had been jumping over the past few months and said nothing had ever happened to him.
"It's not unsafe if you watch out for boats and stuff. Erecting gates to block us out would only encourage us even more."
His 12 year-old friend from Mount Maunganui, said he too had been jumping off the wharf with friends for a year.
"Building a fence won't stop us jumping. I agree _ bring it on."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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