Summer of safety kicks into gear

Waihi Beach residents make the  most of Coastguard New Zealand’s  ‘Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade’ campaign.

Waihi Beach boaties will be the perfect  summer safety advocates thanks to two highly popular initiatives returning to the beachside community this summer.

On December 24, Coastguard New Zealand’s ‘Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade’ van, laden with with lifejackets, will pull up to the Bowentown Boating & Sports Fishing Club for the day, from 1-4pm.

A simple and effective concept sees people bring their old or damaged lifejackets to the Old4New team at one of the many pre-advertised locations, where they receive a discount on a modern and fit-for-purpose Hutchwilco lifejacket.

Boaties and members of the public are encouraged to visit the van to do this and to get advice about boating and water safety from the team on site.

“Lifejackets are often damaged or in poor condition due to the harsh marine environment, where they are exposed to heat, sun and salt water. So we are excited to be able to offer this promotion again this year” says Waihi Beach Volunteer Coastguard spokesperson Jim Pooley.

Bowentown Bar crossing

Also returning from December onwards are the popular Bowentown Bar crossing courses run by volunteers from Waihi Beach Volunteer Coastguard.

It is well-documented that entering the northern end of Tauranga Harbour across the Bowentown Bar, labelled one of the most notorious bars in New Zealand, can be dangerous.

The courses are an hour-long on the water orientation session giving participants the chance to soak up local knowledge, experience and advice from coastguard volunteers, as well as see first-hand how to safely exit and re-enter the harbour.

Sessions are held on-board Gallagher Rescue, Coastguard’s 9.5m Naiad rescue vessel.

Bar crossings can be a high-risk activity, even for the most seasoned boaties out there, and these sessions can prove beneficial by creating a heightened respect for water safety.

“For experienced boaties it could be a refresher on some of the more finer points, and picking up new tips. While for novices this is the perfect chance to upskill themselves, and gain some handy boating knowledge,” explains Jim.

“It is about ensuring everyone is safe and knowledgeable on the water and as a result help create a reduction in bar-related incidents.”

Some key messages include: always wear a life jacket, call coastguard to log a bar crossing report on the local VHF channel (Waihi Beach CH07), check the tides – flood is better than ebb, check the swell height and direction and stop and assess the bar before committing yourself to a crossing.

Over the last 12 months Waihi Beach Coastguard returned 62 people safely back to land, volunteers attended to 14,790 radio calls while on duty and gave a combined total of over 7200 hours of their time.

Jim adds that while most of the boating community are cautious and respectful of the bar there are some who are a bit casual in their attitude.

“People need to remember they shouldn’t gamble with their own life or the lives of others. If it looks dangerous to cross, wait for the conditions to change.”

Education opportunity

Each summer, the Waihi Beach community swells from 2700 permanent residents to an estimated 25,000-30,000 over the busy holiday period, presenting the perfect opportunity to properly educate and equip people for on the water activities.

The local coastguard unit will once again provide total cover over the area, with Gallagher Rescue ready to respond over the Bowentown Bar and AVOCO Rescue protecting the channels and shallow areas of the Northern Tauranga Harbour.

AVOCO, leading export supply group, continues to pledge an annual sponsorship contribution of $20,000 for three years which will go towards Coastguard’s yearly operational costs as well as the running costs of AVOCO Rescue – a 5.8m Naiad designed  RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat), powered by twin 115hp  Yamaha outboards.

The bar crossing courses are held as long as there is public demand for them.

A donation to Waihi Beach Coastguard is appreciated to help offset the costs involved to the volunteer unit.

To book a place on one of the trips please phone 07 863 4477.


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