Jet ski safety focus for Bay of Plenty Summer
Monday, 24 December 2012 8:00 a.m.
Whitewater kayaking requires nerves of steel but Olympian Luuka Jones is the first to admit she gets nervous when she's kayaking in the presence of jet skis.
Just as she loves taking on whitewater rapids, Jones also enjoys a quiet paddle on Rotorua's lakes, especially during the summer months.
"I get a bit nervous whenever they're nearby. Jet ski users like to go fast and I don't think they realise how big a wake they leave or how close they get sometimes when they go by you," says Jones.
"It can be pretty unnerving when jet skis go by, especially when you're in a kayak."
Jones is supporting a Bay of Plenty Regional Council safety campaign aimed at reducing the number of jet ski incidents on the region's waterways and is urging jet ski users to keep others in mind when they're out on the water this summer.
The number of jet skis on Bay of Plenty waterways has increased in recent years and so have the number of jet ski-related incidents, accidents and near misses. In January 2010 Rotorua teenager Bishop Thompson died in Lake Okareka after being hit and knocked off the back of a jet ski by another jet ski. He was not wearing a life jacket.
When it's busy on the water, Jones says she needs to be aware of others around her and has become particularly wary of jet ski users.
"They go really fast and some of them just don't seem to care that there are other people around them.
"Anyone out on the water needs to realise that there are others out there too, also wanting to enjoy themselves, and we all need to keep that in mind when we're out on the water."
Jones has enjoyed using jet skis herself once or twice but knows how powerful they can be and says safety must always come first when doing anything on the water.
It's not compulsory to wear life jackets on a jet ski but Jones says she would never venture out on the water - in a kayak, a boat or on a jet ski - without wearing one.
"As a whitewater kayaker I know how unpredictable waterways can be and I've had a few close calls. You never know when something will go wrong. You always have to respect the water and if anything does go wrong, a life jacket can be a life-saver."
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council's summer campaign which Jones is endorsing aims to improve the behaviour of jet ski users on the region's waterways. Harbourmasters, maritime officers and volunteers will be out in force over summer, reminding jet skiers of the rules and how to enjoy their fun safely.
Most jet ski incidents involve males aged 17 to 30 and in most cases, it comes down to inexperience, according to the region's maritime staff.
Jet skis are as powerful and as fast as a car but under current laws anyone 15 or over can be in charge of one, no licence required. However, jet ski users must comply with the same maritime rules as boaties and like boaties, can be fined $200 for breaching those rules.
The Bay of Plenty Regional campaign will remind jet ski users of the rules governing the use of jet skis and will encourage them to wear life jackets rather than just stow them on board, which is all the law currently requires them to do. Jet ski users will also be encouraged to attend a Coastguard Day Skipper's course to learn the rules and all they need to know to be safe.
A series of cartoons, posters, flyers and social media messaging are also part of the summer campaign which has been endorsed by Jones, Tauranga-based Kiwi pro surfer Matt Hewitt and the whanau of Bishop Thompson.