Rockingham Volunteer Marine Rescue Group backs changes to boating safety

Rockingham Volunteer Marine Rescue Group backs changes to boating safety
Rockingham Volunteer Marine Rescue Group backs changes to boating safety

THE Rockingham Volunteer Marine Rescue Group (RVMRG) has backed the mandatory wearing of life jackets after four people have drowned in local waters this year.

But the move, being considered by the State Government as part of a review of recreational boat safety equipment, has been rejected by fishing lobby group Recfishwest, which says it should be an individual choice.

RVMRG operations officer Wayne Rance said people would get used to wearing life jackets just like motor vehicle drivers had become used to wearing seat belts.

“I don’t think it should be up to the individual,” he said.

“A lot of people say ‘I’ll be all right, I’m just going around the corner’, but accidents do happen.”

Mr Rance said boaties not wearing life jackets was a huge concern for the group.

“This year alone we’ve lost four people just in our area,” he said.

He said modern life jackets were lightweight, easy to wear and not as bulky as older lifejackets.

“You don’t even notice that you’ve got them on,” he said.

Mr Rance said mandatory life jackets should also apply to other water users, including jet skiers and stand-up paddle boarders.

“If it floats on the water and you are going out past your depth, have a life jacket,” he said.

Recfishwest chief executive officer Andrew Rowland said safety came down to the individual and personal responsibility was the key factor.

“We encourage and promote safe fishing experiences for all and equip fishers with the knowledge so they can make their own decision to fish or not to fish and we believe this needs to be applied to vessel safety,” Dr Rowland said.

“We support increased education campaigns towards vessel owners of the risks; it’s important that people have good knowledge to make their own informed decisions in specific situations.

“We do not support a blanket approach to making the wearing of life jackets on a boat mandatory.”

He said educating the boating public and empowering them to make their own choices was a better approach than making it compulsory.

The Department of Transport is holding a two-stage consultation process that will raise key issues affecting current and possible new safety equipment requirements.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said it was the first major review of recreational boat safety equipment requirements in 25 years.

“Too many families have been impacted by tragedies on local waters and this is why we need to bring the safety regulations into the 21st century,” Ms Saffioti said.

She said 25 lives had been lost due to recreational boating accidents in the past four years.

The aim of the review was to enhance the safety of people on the water without reducing the participation rate or imposing unreasonable costs on those who enjoy boating.

Safety equipment is required for the 100,000 recreational vessels registered in WA and the growing number of different types of personal watercraft, sailboards, paddleboats and sail boats in specified areas of operation.

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