All at sea over lifejacket law change

By Amelia Wade

Anneliese Parsons, 8, from Bucklands Beach in her new lifejacket at the Auckland boat show. Photo / Dean Purcell
Anneliese Parsons, 8, from Bucklands Beach in her new lifejacket at the Auckland boat show. Photo / Dean Purcell

A proposed change to lifejacket laws to make wearing them mandatory in boats smaller than 6m has already proved controversial and split opinion.

Two South Auckland local politicians are pushing for the law change because they say too many people are drowning in accidents involving small craft.

The changes to local regulations are part of the review of the Navigation Safety Bylaw, which is due to go out for public comment early next year, but councillors think the lifejacket issue should be treated as a separate bylaw.

It is expected the proposal will receive a huge amount of feedback.

Council surveys show 35 per cent strongly supported compulsory wearing of lifejackets in small boats while 44 per cent were strongly against the idea.

The Herald has been flooded with feedback since a story on Saturday.

Darcy Snowden didn't think wearing lifejackets should be compulsory.

"Personal responsibility is being eroded all the time and this proposal, while well intentioned, is just another nail in the coffin in that respect."

Meri Low supported the proposed law. She said New Zealand had the same objection when it became law to wear seat belts in cars.

"In Australia, all craft are registered, warranted, it is compulsory to wear lifejackets, carry flares that are current within two years, and carry emergency communication. We are behind the times and it is costing lives."

At the Auckland on Water Boat Show yesterday, the Herald surveyed people on the proposed change.

Shell Lucas, from Palmerston North, supported the proposal. "You should wear them if you value your life. If you hit your head and you go under the water, you're fish food."

But her husband, Darryl, said he was "50:50" about whether lifejackets should be compulsory - it depended on how it would be policed.

Your view: Should lifejackets be compulsory on small boats?

"Yes, people will cry and hate it but they will be happy to have this in place when and if they ever need help.'' - Steven Bezuidenhout.

"The skipper of any craft knows, or should know, that they are wholly and legally responsible for their craft and all on board. They will always be so and in all situations this should include all safety considerations, including the wearing, or not, of lifesaving equipment. Further legislation is just not the answer.'' - Tony Prentice

"Yes, it should be compulsory. Obviously, under the current scenario, a significant number of skippers do not exercise good judgment when deciding if they should be worn.'' - Joe Woollaston

- NZ Herald

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