It is mandatory to wear a lifejacket while waterskiing in the Bay of Plenty, the region's harbourmaster says.

Rotorua coroner Wallace Bain has released his findings into the death of a man who drowned while water skiing on Lake Rotoiti in February.

The man's name and identifying details have been permanently suppressed by the coroner.

In his findings, Coroner Bain said if the man had been wearing a lifejacket it may well have saved his life.


"The debate here is whether, for water skiing or other water sports where practical, the wearing of a lifejacket should be compulsory."

He did not issue any specific recommendation, but said the findings would be forwarded to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council "so that they may consider the aspects surrounding this death and water skiing and water sports generally and consult, where appropriate, to determine whether or not in future they should make any changes with these lifejacket rules".

Bay of Plenty harbourmaster Peter Buell told the Rotorua Daily Post it had long been a requirement of the Bay of Plenty Navigation Safety Bylaw that water skiers must wear lifejackets.

"For the most part this message is getting across and the vast majority of skiers in our region do wear a lifejacket while skiing. If we see people not following this rule our patrols can issue a breach of bylaw and this may lead to a $200 fine."

He said the regional council didn't see the need to change any rules but it would review the coroner's findings.

"At the end of the day lifejackets save lives, but only if they are worn. People should wear them whenever they are on the water."

Maritime New Zealand set base lifejacket rules for the country which say as a skipper, you must carry a correctly sized lifejacket for each person on board and they must be worn in times of heightened danger like crossing a bar.

Some bylaws go further than maritime rules, making the wearing of lifejackets compulsory for all on board small craft. In the Bay of Plenty lifejackets must be worn, unless the skipper has assessed the risk and advised it's safe to remove them.

Coroner Bain also released his finding into the death of Colin McCormick, who drowned on Lake Rotoiti in January.


He had jumped off a boat into the lake to retrieve his hat which had blown off. He had earlier been wearing a life jacket but had taken it off.

The boat drifted away from him and his partner, who was on the boat with McCormick's 9-year-old son, was unable to start the motor to get back to him.

Coroner Bain repeated his comments in reference to the wearing of life jackets.

He also referred the regional council to comments made by expert witness Geoff Thomas who said the situation highlighted the importance of a boat skipper always ensuring someone else on the boat knew how to operate the engine.

However the coroner had noted there had been a lack of proper servicing of the motor and McCormick's family felt there was no blame at all on the partner.