Last week was the Wellington Regional Council environment committee which I chair. Of particular interest to us on the Kāpiti Coast was the review of the Wellington Region Navigation and Safety Bylaw 2009.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is seeking to make our regional harbours safer for communities following approval by its Environment Committee's proposed amendments designed to ensure national consistency, reduce risk and improve safety measures on the water.

Public feedback is being sought on the proposals, which would amend the Wellington Regional Navigation and Safety Bylaws 2009, the laws which are designed to improve safety on the water.

Greater Wellington harbourmaster Grant Nalder commented that our region's waters change rapidly, one moment it's glass-like and the next it is the tempest.

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"We want to ensure these up to date bylaws establish basic foundations for water safety, so people in our community can look after themselves and their whānau."

The proposed amendments cover a range of navigation safety bylaws which will affect all vessels, large and small. One of the more significant is to make the wearing of lifejackets mandatory on vessels that are under six metres in length when it is under way.

The bylaw changes will mean that all vessels will need to be named to help with identification in safety situations and for breaches.

Mostly lifejackets are worn voluntarily, so these proposed amendments may come as a surprise to people who assumed these were already laws.

A lot of other regions across New Zealand have some of these rules in place, so it's vital that we create a consistent approach and continue to improve our harbour safety.

These amendments will make the region's harbour and coastal waters safer for our communities no matter what activity they undertake. Whether that's people operating small and large boats, the growing waka ama community or our recreational divers and snorkellers – we have their wellbeing and safety in mind.

Last summer I had a first hand experience of snorkelling off Kāpiti Island - believe you me, I was very focused on safety, and this Bylaw is there to ensure the safety of everyone out on the water.

Greater Wellington is encouraging the community to submit their comments on the proposed amendments to Greater Wellington by 5pm, November 30. For more information visit: haveyoursay.gw.govt.nz/bylaws

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