Laws won’t stop drown­ings but ed­u­ca­tion will

New Zealand Fishing World - - From The Editor -

The old de­bate on life­jack­ets is rag­ing once again with the pro­posal to make wear­ing them manda­tory on boats of less than 6m.

We’ve been here many times be­fore and there is strong feel­ing on both sides of the de­bate but surely now we must find a so­lu­tion to a prob­lem that sim­ply won’t go away.

Auck­land Coun­cil has a pro­posed by­law on the ta­ble that would re­quire all those on boats of less than 6m to wear life­jack­ets.

At the mo­ment, the law only re­quires life­jack­ets to be aboard but there is no re­quire­ment for them to be worn. The ques­tion that has to be asked is, would a by­law be enough to force peo­ple who ven­ture on to the wa­ter with­out life­jack­ets make them change their ways?

The short an­swer is no. The penal­ties would prob­a­bly not be harsh enough to make peo­ple stand up and take no­tice and the lo­gis­tics and costs in en­forc­ing such a law would make it very tough.

The Auck­land by­law would be en­forced by the har­bour­mas­ter’s of­fice if it were to come into ef­fect.

I would sug­gest that this added re­spon­si­bil­ity is one that staff there could do with­out.

Peo­ple still drink and drive and speed on our roads, even with se­vere penal­ties for this type of of­fend­ing, so a slap on the wrist in the form of a fine won’t com­pel ev­ery­one to wear a life­jacket.

On the face of it, mak­ing it il­le­gal not to wear your life­jacket isn’t a bad idea but the re­al­ity is it won’t stop peo­ple from drown­ing.

The key to fix­ing any so­cial prob­lem – and this is a so­cial prob­lem – is through ed­u­ca­tion.

You pump as much money into ed­u­ca­tion as pos­si­ble and slowly but surely you change cul­tures.

Once some­thing be­comes so­cially un­ac­cept­able, then the masses start to change their ways. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in this de­bate is that ev­ery­one ad­mits we have a prob­lem. The stick­ing point is how we fight it.

Per­haps the con­sid­er­able re­sources that are go­ing into en­act­ing a by­law should be put into a uni­fied drive to change the mind­sets of those who think it’s okay to take their kids on to the sea with­out a ba­sic safety pro­vi­sion.

The by­law pro­posal is a well-mean­ing one and I don’t want to sound like I am crit­i­ciz­ing those in­volved. None of us want to see another drown­ing in our waters but by­law or no by­law, sadly we will.

The only way we can truly fix this prob­lem is by chang­ing be­hav­iours and the only way we can do that is by ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the dan­gers.

Four­teen peo­ple died in re­cre­ational boat­ing ac­ci­dents in New Zealand waters last year, and by the end of Septem­ber this year a fur­ther 11 peo­ple had died. Mar­itime New Zealand says three­quar­ters of those deaths may have been avoided had ba­sic steps – like wear­ing life­jack­ets – been taken.

So the ob­vi­ous course of ac­tion is to get all the stake­hold­ers – Mar­itime New Zealand, Coast­guard, the ma­jor boat­ing and fish­ing clubs, com­mu­nity lead­ers et al – around a ta­ble to nut out an ac­tion plan that sees ed­u­ca­tion as the fo­cus.

The uni­fied ac­tion plan would en­sure the mes­sage gets to ev­ery­one, through our schools, our clubs and into our homes through na­tion­wide cam­paigns.

There’s al­ready plenty groups and as­so­ci­a­tions try­ing to get the mes­sage of mar­itime safety out there and do­ing a great job.

But imag­ine how loud that mes­sage would be­come if they were all work­ing to­gether and de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage as one?

Ev­ery­one knows that we must stop th­ese need­less, tragic drown­ings in our wa­ter­ways. Now is the time to band to­gether and ed­u­cate the peo­ple, not pun­ish them.

A pro­posal to make the wear­ing of life­jack­ets manda­tory in boats un­der 6m has been met with op­po­si­tion in Auck­land. The pro­posed by­law is to go out for pub­lic com­ment in early 2014 but it has al­ready drawn crit­i­cism from some who say it is another case of the ‘nanny state’.

The by­law was tabled by two South Auck­land politi­cians - for­mer OtaraPa­p­a­toe­toe Lo­cal Board mem­ber Tunuma­fono Ava Fa’amoe and Manukau ward coun­cil­lor Alf Fili­paina - who said too many peo­ple were drown­ing in ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing small craft.

Mr Fili­paina, who is also a Coun­tiesManukau po­lice Pa­cific li­ai­son of­fi­cer, was called to Man­gere Bridge in May last year when So’saia Paasi and his seven-year-old son, Tio, drowned when a dinghy cap­sized.

Three other chil­dren were res­cued from the wa­ter that day.

Auck­land Yacht­ing and Boat­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents around 17,000 mem­bers, has urged the coun­cil not to in­tro­duce a “rushed, al­beit well-mean­ing, by­law which will have lit­tle ef­fect”.

Crit­ics say the by­law would only in­crease the num­ber of boaties and fishos break­ing the law while ac­tu­ally boat­ing safely and re­spon­si­bly.

Hibis­cus Bays Boat­ing Club has made a sub­mis­sion against the by­law and said pro­posed com­pul­sory wear­ing of life­jack­ets in boats of 6m did not have proof that it would be ef­fec­tive.

Of the five drown­ings in 2012, four were in boats un­der 4.9m made of light­weight alu­minium, the club’s sub­mis­sion said, adding it would ac­cept the rule ap­ply­ing to boats un­der 4.8m.

Mar­itime New Zealand (MNZ) launched its lat­est life­jacket cam­paign ear­lier this month and is push­ing the mes­sage that hav­ing a life­jacket on board will not save boaties or their mates if things go wrong.

MNZ’s ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, Pa­nia Shin­gle­ton, said too many men don’t re­alise this sim­ple fact, de­spite the sta­tis­tics show­ing that 90 per cent of boat­ing fa­tal­i­ties are men.

“Be­ing close to your life­jacket is like be­ing close to your bul­let­proof vest – it’s just not close enough,” said Pa­nia.

“Peo­ple think if they have an ac­ci­dent, they’ll have time to put their life­jacket on, but boat­ing tragedies tell a dif­fer­ent story.”

Mar­itime New Zealand’s new ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign harks back to the glory days of 1980s cop shows to show that, like bul­let­proof vests, life­jack­ets don’t save peo­ple’s lives un­less they’re worn.

The cam­paign draws on MNZ’s lat­est re­search, which shows that men aged 40-plus are the least likely to zip up on the wa­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.