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Jet Ski safety campaign launched

Wednesday, 17 October 2012 4:00 p.m.

A campaign has been launched to improve the behaviour of jet ski users on Bay of Plenty waterways this summer.

As the number of jet skis has increased in recent years, so have the number of accidents, incidents and near misses, says Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbourmaster - Western Bay, Jennifer Roberts.

They're as powerful and as fast as a car but under current laws anyone 15 and over can be in charge of a jet ski, no licence required.

"They can be a lot of fun and most people are well behaved and use them safely but every year the number of incidents involving jet skis increases," Jennifer says. "Given the huge influx of people to our beaches and lakes every summer, that means people are being put at risk."

For more information about Navigation Safety in the Bay of Plenty, visit our Navigation Safety pages >>

Most jet ski incidents in the Bay of Plenty involve males aged about 17 to 30.

"We don't want to spoil anyone's fun but people need to be reminded that they can have fun but be safe at the same time," she says. "We want people to be mindful of others and to not fool around and put themselves and others at risk."

The region's harbourmasters and maritime volunteers will be out in force over the coming months reminding jet skiers of the rules and how to enjoy their fun safely.

Jet ski users will be encouraged to wear life jackets rather than just stow them on board which is all the law currently requires them to do. They will also be encouraged to do a Coastguard day skipper's course which will teach them the rules and all they need to know to be safe.

Like boaties, jet ski users can be fined $200 for breaching maritime rules.

"Rather than hand out tickets right away, we mostly talk to boaties, jet ski users and other people out on the water and find that often, if they have done something wrong, it's because they don't know the rules," Jennifer says.

"We want to ensure they do know the rules and hope they will then pass on those messages to others. The last thing we want is people getting injured or worse, killed, as a result of risky behaviour."

Problems with jet ski users misbehaving in the region are most prevalent on the lakes around Rotorua where there has already been one tragedy.

The whanau of Rotorua teenager Bishop Thompson, who was killed as a result of a jet ski accident on Lake Okareka in January 2011, are involved in the campaign.

Rotorua Lakes Maritime Officer, Ross Powell says last summer there was an incident very similar to that which resulted in the death of Bishop Thompson.

"It was also on Lake Okareka, two people on jet skis were criss-crossing across each other's wakes, one got air and flew into and over the other, knocking a person off. Luckily, they were wearing life jackets.

"Jet skis are very fast and manoeuvrable and things can easily go wrong if people are fooling around and don't know how to handle them properly."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbourmaster - Eastern, Brian Spake, says there are very few problems with jet ski users in the Eastern Bay where some places have designated jet ski areas. He and his staff and volunteers spend a lot of time talking to water users and as a result, experience few issues but he says ahead of the busy holiday period is a good time to remind all water users to ensure they know the rules and are always mindful of others.

Jet Ski Cartoon It takes three to ski

Key facts

Bay of Plenty Regional Council's maritime team is responsible for a large area from Waihi Beach in the north to Lottin Point near the East Cape and 12 nautical miles out to sea. They also oversee the Rotorua lakes, the region's rivers and the harbours and estuaries at Tauranga, Maketu, Thornton, Pukehina, Whakatane, Ohiwa and Opotiki.

The use of the region's lakes, harbours, waterways and off-shore areas are subject to the council's Navigation Safety Bylaw.

The rules

  • You must be 15 or older to  drive a powered vessel  that is capable of travelling faster than 10 knots, including jet skis
  • You must not go faster than five knots:
    • Within 50 metres of another vessel or person in the water
    • Within 200 metres of the shore, a dive flag, or any structure
  • The operator of any vessel, including a jet ski, must ensure there is a lifejacket of the correct size and fit for each person on board
  • You must ensure that your vessel's wake does not cause danger or damage to boats or other water users.
  • If you are skiing/towing there must also be an observer who is older than 10 years in the vessel or on the jet ski.
  • The person being towed must wear a lifejacket
  • You can be fined $200 for breaching  the bylaw.

Free copies of the Bay of Plenty Regional Navigation Safety Bylaw 2010 are available from Bay of Plenty Regional Council offices or by contacting the council on 0800 884 880 or at

Jet Ski Cartoon You wouldn't speed through a park

Learn the safe way

Day Skipper Courses

Bay of Plenty Regional Council encourages all boat and jet ski users to complete a Day Skipper course to ensure they know how to operate their vessel safety and know the rules.

The courses are run by Coastguard Boating Education and are a good way to learn the ropes and familiarise yourself with how to safely operate a jet ski or other vessel and the rules that govern our waterways to ensure the safety of everyone.

It is an introductory course suitable for all members of the family and will help you gain essential boating and safety knowledge. At the end of it you will receive a NZ Day Skipper Certificate and unit standards are available.

You'll not only learn about the rules and regulations but also about how to handle your vessel safely, being a responsible operator and what to do in emergency situations.
Day Skipper courses are run throughout the country, including the Bay of Plenty.

There are also jet ski-specific courses run by Coastguard in some regions and instructors are willing to travel in some cases to conduct a course elsewhere.
To find out about courses available where you live or where you plan to holiday, go to and click on 'Courses'.

Jet Ski Cartoon Go slow in shallow

Jet Ski Cartoon It takes three to ski