Editorial: Boating needs a rules revamp

By Dylan Thorne

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Tim Mair died when his boat capsized near the entrance to the harbour at Bowentown on January 28. Photo / Fritha Tagg
Tim Mair died when his boat capsized near the entrance to the harbour at Bowentown on January 28. Photo / Fritha Tagg

Doubtless, the country's coroners may feel the messages contained in their findings are not getting through.

Evidence of this is seen in the number of people who have lost their lives needlessly because they decided to forego wearing a seatbelt while driving or a lifejacket when venturing out in the water.

Such a case was heard by Coroner Peter Ryan, who this week released his findings into the death of Timothy Robert Russell Mair.

He died when his boat capsized near the entrance to the harbour at Bowentown on January 28.

Mr Mair and his grandson, daughter, son and family friend were trawling in rough seas with a large swell when the boat was swamped by a wave and capsized by a second wave.

Only one person on board the boat was wearing a lifejacket but three others managed to put a lifejacket on while in the water.

The coroner said Mr Mair's death most likely could have been prevented if he had been wearing a lifejacket at the time the boat capsized. Only good fortune saved the other three on board who were not wearing lifejackets.

It is a legal requirement to have a personal flotation device for each person in situations where there was heightened risk under the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's guide to safe use of the harbour.

The coroner said Mr Mair should have been aware of this as the skipper.

It is a tragic case that could have resulted in the loss of multiple lives. It also highlights the need for stricter regulations around boating.

There are plenty of courses for basic maritime rules and water safety but none are compulsory.

Countries such as Australia require skippers to have a licence if they want to take the helm of most boats and personal watercraft. Skippers have to sit a formal test to prove they have the skill to be on the water safely.

Our Government has deemed licensing to be too expensive, difficult to implement and time-consuming for little safety benefit. Why then have Canada, Australia and some European nations decided the cost is worth it?

It is time the Government reviewed its stance on this issue.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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