Concern on the Waikato River
There were three waka ama crews practicing their paces in a build up to the National Championships in January 2016, they looked great and all the crews I saw were wearing lifejackets.
A large flotilla of about 5metre long large rowing craft accompanied by power boats as escorts started to arrive from up river and I was later informed that they had rowed for three days and had camped at pre-arranged locations for two nights. I observed that their crews comprised of young boys and girls and again that they all were wearing lifejackets.
White baiters were seen both on the river and at the boat ramp sorting out their nets and associated gear, and finally there were water skiers and jet boat operators.
One concern was the numerous logs floating down the river, some the size of large trees. There were parts that were submerged possibly due to their water logged condition and more were lodged against the up river side of the bridge supports. I was very concerned about one jet skier on a black jet ski who was seen by many bystanders to be exceeding the five knot speed limit within 30 metres of the shore and, in particular, in the area close to other vessels.
Upon discussing this with a colleague afterwards I was informed that there is a five knot speed limit clearly displayed on large signs at the ramps and in two other locations clearly visible, and another sign shows the areas set aside for specific activities like jet skiing. Non compliance can result in a $200 fine, which can be imposed by the Waikato Regional Council officers who have photographic evidence of these irresponsible people who put others at risk by their actions.
As this was the start of the boating season it has not got off to a good start and could result in more injury accidents on this stretch of river (there have been two injury accidents in recent years, involving power craft in the area west of the Tuakau Bridge).
Hopefully the Waikato Regional Council will have staff in this area over the summer months to ensure that the bylaws are enforced, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.
Concerned river user