Volunteer wardens will no longer enforce bylaws on Rotorua's lakes following threats and verbal abuse from boaties.

While the majority of people have been well behaved on the water over summer, a "belligerent" few have been causing problems.

Bay of Plenty Harbour Master Peter Buell said the majority of people responded well to advice from wardens and staff.

However, a minority acting "belligerently" meant changes had to be made to protect volunteers.


"They've been verbally abused. On occasion they've been told to 'Bugger off or else'."

More wardens were still welcomed, but they would no longer be issuing breach of bylaw notices, he said. Instead, they would focus more on education.

Despite the issues, Buell said for the most part, people were behaving themselves.

Staff had recorded 1933 interactions with people on the water over the summer, plus an extra 910 on boat ramps.

Of those, 3 per cent resulted in a breach of bylaw, or formal warning, being issued.

Very few led to an infringement, Buell said.

For wardens Sandra and Mike Goodwin, the behaviour was "disappointing".

The pair have volunteered at both Lake Okareka and Tikitapu (Blue Lake) for several years.


While they had not experienced many issues themselves this season, Mr Goodwin said it was "disappointing" wardens would no longer be able to help with enforcement.

"But I can totally understand where the regional council is coming from," he said.

"Our job is education, really."

Mr Goodwin said most people responded well when wardens pointed out an issue.

It was also good to see other boaties tapping people on the shoulder if they were doing something that could put others at risk, he said.

Buell discussed how the summer season was going during a Rotorua Lakes Community Board meeting on Wednesday.

At the meeting Buell told members the abuse of wardens was a health and safety issue.

"I don't want them getting smacked."

He also said the regional council had a focus on jet ski safety, with 3000 jet skis sold in the Bay of Plenty last year.

The vast majority of owners had "no idea what they're doing on the water", he said.

District councillor Tania Tapsell, who is a member of the community board, said yesterday it was "completely unacceptable" for wardens to face verbal abuse.

"I was really surprised because they do such an amazing job. I'm more than happy to support them in any way we can."

Tapsell said she was a frequent visitor to the lakes, but this was the first she had heard of wardens being abused or threatened.