Waikato regional councillors have today backed a recommendation to consult with the public on proposed changes to the Navigation Safety Bylaw.

The council's strategy and policy committee last week heard that the bylaw has rules to make all navigable waterways in the Waikato – except Lake Taupō, which is managed by the Department of Internal Affairs – safe for water users.

Strategy and policy committee chairwoman Pamela Storey said the region's freshwater and marine areas were popular playgrounds for hundreds of thousands of people, with many of them travelling from outside the region each year.

"That's why these rules are so important – they help to protect everybody, from boaties to jet skiers, kayakers to waka ama paddlers, and other users of Waikato's waterways," said Pamela.

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The revised draft bylaw deals with navigation safety, including the use or management of ships and requirements for life jackets and jet ski registration.

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The rules are enforced by the council's harbourmasters, who are responsible for the maintenance of moorings and navigation aids under the bylaw, as well as patrolling known hotspots each year to ensure compliance with the rules and responding to reports from the public.

"We have received some useful feedback and suggestions on the existing bylaw since it came into force in 2013, and some of these have been incorporated into the changes we're proposing," said Waikato Regional Council's maritime services team leader Richard Barnett.

"The changes this time are smaller in scope than previous years, but will still have impacts on specific areas, so it's important to us that key communities are on board with the proposed rules."

As well as making changes to align with the Maritime Transport Act 1994, a moorings management section has been added to reflect moorings licences which are in place at Kāwhia. The proposed moorings management section represents the conditions of the mooring licence agreements and does not impose any new restriction or rules against the mooring owner that are not already agreed to in the licence.

There are also changes to local schedules to better represent current actual usage, like the addition of swim zones, removal of unnecessary5 knot zones, an unsafe towing access lane, and shifting some zones after physical changes to the reserves where the zones are located.

The consultation opened on Wednesday, July 1 and everyone wanting to have their say on the proposed changes to the bylaw must lodge their submission by 5pm on Wednesday, July 29.

Visit waikatoregion.govt.nz/have-your-say for more information.

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