Boaties are being urged to make sure they are up-to-speed with the water rules this summer as an unprecedented number of Kiwis opt to holiday at home.
Waikato Regional Council maritime officers are expecting the region's waterways to be busy this season, despite Covid-19 border restrictions, as droves of domestic tourists make for the coast.
"We're actually anticipating even bigger crowds this year as those that usually holiday abroad dust off their boats to enjoy the great Kiwi summer," says maritime services team leader Richard Barnett.
"But bigger crowds mean more risk, so we're urging people to stay safe by being sensible, checking the weather before setting off and while out on the water, knowing the rules and sticking to them."
During the summer months, the Waikato receives a large influx of visitors, particularly on the Coromandel Peninsula, and research released by Maritime New Zealand this year suggests nearly 1.7 million people are now frequently heading out on the water.
There are rules to help to protect everybody, from boaties to jet skiers, kayakers to waka ama paddlers, and other users of Waikato's waterways too.
Key rules set out in the regional bylaw include restricting speed of vessels in certain areas. The five-knot rule for the Waikato region varies depending on whether you are boating on inland or coastal waters.
If you're inland, keep to five-knots or less within 50m of people, other vessels and structures, and within 30m of the shore. In coastal waters, you must keep to five-knots or less within 200m of the shore, structures and boats displaying a dive flag. The five-knot rule applies to all recreational vessels, including jet skis.
In the Waikato, lifejackets must be worn by everyone on board for vessels six metres or less when under way. For vessels greater than six metres in length there must be enough correctly fitting lifejackets for everyone on board and they must be worn when crossing a bar and in circumstances where there is a risk to the safety of those on board.
It is the role of the Harbourmaster's Office within Waikato Regional Council to enforce the local bylaws and promote safe use of the region's waterways, except on Lake Taupō which is managed by the Department of Internal Affairs.
"We increase the number of patrol staff over the summer and our maritime officers will be watching hot spots closely during the peak period from Boxing Day to January 10," says Richard.
"Ultimately it's the skipper's responsibility to know the rules, follow them, and ensure the safety of everyone on board their vessels. Those that don't are breaking the law. It's our job to enforce the rules and there is no excuse for reckless behaviour that endangers the lives of others."
Members of the public are encouraged to report unsafe boating behaviours to the council by calling 0800 800 401.
More information on the maritime rules for the Waikato region can be found at waikatoregion.govt.nz/navigation.