Boating toll fails to match low road toll

Easter weekend has marked a tragic end to the summer boating season with four people missing following recreational boating accidents.

Two men on a fishing trip in a 5.7m runabout are thought to have capsized on the Port Waikato bar on Monday, and a 74-year-old man remains missing after his 5.5m boat overturned while crossing the Manukau bar on Thursday evening.

On Saturday afternoon, Canterbury police were alerted after a man who had fallen out of his kayak on Lake Coleridge was seen struggling to stay afloat. Shoreline and Police dive searches have so far failed to find the missing man.

Maritime New Zealand Deputy Director and Safer Boating Forum Chair Lindsay Sturt said while the single fatality on the roads was being heralded, the boating toll was a stark reminder of the dangers of unpredictable boating conditions. There were no boating-related drownings over Easter in 2014.

“It’s important that people remember that boating does carry risk, and safety needs to be taken seriously. Unfortunately even the most experienced and fit boaties can still get into trouble.”

Caution should always be exercised when crossing bars, said Mr Sturt, as conditions are often unpredictable and can change quickly.

“Boaties should always check the weather, tide and bar conditions, secure all deck openings, hatches and doors, and avoid low tide when crossing a bar,” he said.

“Wearing lifejackets and calling Coastguard or Maritime Radio before and after crossing are also critical steps that could ensure a safe return home. If in doubt, stay out.”

The Easter weekend concluded a tragic summer boating season that has seen the loss of 16 recreational boaties since Labour Weekend, including six kayakers.

“Kayaks and canoes are too often seen as leisure craft that don’t require the considerations around safety that a power boat or yacht might. But research shows that the majority of accidents occur in boats under 6 metres, meaning kayaks are particularly vulnerable,” said Mr Sturt.

“We urge all boaties to follow the basic safety rules, no matter how big or small their vessels are – wear your lifejacket, check the marine forecast, take two forms of waterproof communications equipment and avoid alcohol.”

With winter on its way, it was also important that boaties were prepared for changeable and colder conditions.

“Putting safety first could be the difference between life and death. We want everyone to come home safely this winter,” said Mr Sturt.