Last minute Govt flip-flop on life jackets
Sun, 24 Jun 2012 6:02p.m.
By Brook Sabin
A 3 News investigation has uncovered that the Government backed off making lifejacket wearing compulsory on all small water craft, just a week before it was to be signed off.
The reversal was made despite official advice saying the change could help prevent 10 deaths a year.
Now one maritime expert says the Government must take some responsibility for unnecessary deaths.
On the country's busiest waterway, the Waitemata Harbour, boaties continue to head out without wearing a lifejacket.
But they don't have to wear them – it's only compulsory to carry them.
“If we keep allowing people to drown themselves, unless we make a rule change and start affecting some compliance on it, we're going to continue to see more deaths,” says editor of Professional Skipper Magazine Keith Ingram.
Documents supplied under the Official Information Act reveal officials were pushing for compulsory lifejackets back in 2010, saying "the rule change will contribute to preventing 10 recreational boating fatalities per year".
And so a new rule was drawn up.
The rule change was black and white, and would have made it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn on all boats under 6m, where most drownings occur.
But a week before it was to go before Cabinet an email popped up saying the then-Transport Minister Steven Joyce "has requested that the proposed Cabinet paper be withdrawn from next week's agenda”.
It went on to say "it looks unlikely that the minister will make any rules requiring the default wearing of PFDs, or lifejackets, at least in the near term".
He didn't, and two years later nothing has changed.
“There's no doubt when looking at the analysis that the officials have done that this measure, if adopted, would have saved 10 or 20 lives by now,” says Labour Transport spokesman Phil Twyford.
But the minister responsible for maritime safety doesn't accept that, saying the analysis was based on old figures.
“In the absence of good evidence that compulsory wearing of lifejackets will make a safety difference, I don't think that New Zealanders will thank me for over-regulating in this area,” says Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges.
“Just count every life you lose, and be it on you” is Mr Ingram’s message to the Government.
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28/06/2012 8:36:13 a.m.
While I strongly believe that you should always wear a PFD on a small boat but I dont think that it should be law.
First of all it wouldnt be enforced. Just like all the other maritime laws that go unenforced like having to have a PFD for every person on the boat.
What we need is more education and more personal responsibility not more laws.
25/06/2012 7:19:57 a.m.
How stupid is this government...And the people complaining about the Government over-regulating. I'm not worried about some idiot that drowns themselves because they were not wearing a life jacket...but it is their children that they take out who need this. If you need proof about kids paying for the lack of compulsory life jacket, read this:
Seriously what is wrong with you people???
24/06/2012 11:48:08 p.m.
Thanks to the others commenting here because until I read their comments I couldn't see why you wouldn't legislate for the compulsory wearing of life jackets. So yay now I get it :)
24/06/2012 10:31:17 p.m.
Children who cant swim should be wearing life jackets by law, just like seat belts in a car it is the driver responsible for anyone under 15. Children get taken on to boats by their parents who cant take responsibility for their own children.
24/06/2012 9:11:35 p.m.
We don’t want Nanny State regulating every bit of our lives, where is self responsibility in all of this. From what I understand ten people a year come to grief and pay the ultimate price, what about the hundreds of thousands that don’t come to grief and enjoy their freedom. Keep Governments out of our lives.
24/06/2012 9:04:55 p.m.
Good on Simon Bridges. We have more than enough regulation in this country without it impinging further on our leisure time. If people want to go on the water and not wear a life jacket, then let them. It's their choice and they need to take the consequences of their decisions. We can't have nanny state looking after us all the time.
24/06/2012 8:49:05 p.m.
Life jackets are ugly. I'm not wearing one unless everybody else does.
24/06/2012 7:23:47 p.m.
Anthony Lealand wrote:
The minister clearly saw that some water sports are not compatible with life jackets. Rowing for one is as clumsy as a cow with a rifle when wearing a life jacket. I row for recreation and trying to wear a life jacket while rowing is best described as trying to swim in gumboots. But I carry a jacket.
Some sailing is very dangerous in life jackets, a a rope hooking under it can throw you over board or worse pull you under in a capsize. Here a wet suit is incomparably superior for flotation and exposure.
I cant speak for kiteboarding but imagine it is the same.
Its all about education and learning the skills of boating, using the appropriate safety gear.
Who would enforce it anyway, would you register every scrap of wood that could be used as a boat? Issue hats with ID numbers to all on the water?
Boating without safety gear is entering for the Darwin awards. These run 24/7 and entering is free.
24/06/2012 7:02:48 p.m.
If there was revenue involved - National would be there with bells on - otherwise ? - they just do not care - unless of course it happens to one of their own....
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