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Hawke's Bay is renowned for its beautiful waterways. These waterways are shared by boaties, swimmers, jetskis and others. The sea and our coastal areas can be quite unforgiving and things can go wrong quite quickly, which is why rules, regulations and guidelines are in place to help you keep safe.
Use the information and advice below on keeping yourself and others safe on the water.
Every skipper in New Zealand is responsible for the safety of those on board, no matter how big or small the boat is. This means managing the risks of being on the water at all times.
Even though a licence is not required to operate a pleasure boat in New Zealand, ignorance of any maritime rules or bylaws is no excuse for failure to comply. Non-compliance can lead to fines or prosecution.
If you are the skipper of your vessel you must:
Please use the below details to report incidents.
You must also provide a written report within 48 hours via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ensure your safety when out on the water by following this essential equipment checklist.
People on board a vessel 6m or less must now wear a lifejacket when the boat is underway.
It is also a legal requirement to wear lifejackets at times of heightened risk, such as when crossing bars, in strong tides, or in water that is rough for the size of the craft, and in an emergency, irrespective of the vessel length.
If you are water skiing, using a personal watercraft/jt ski or a paddleboard or kayak, we recommend you wear a lifejacket at all times.
If you are being towed, it is a legal requirement to wear a lifejacket.
Ensure that any children, elderly or non-swimmers always put their lifejackets on. Crotch straps are essential for children's lifejackets.
It is important to have the right type of lifejacket. Consider the type of water activity you do, the distance from shore you intend to go, adn hr kind of conditions you are likely to encounter, Talk to your local supplier or our Harbormaster Martin Moore, about what's the best type of lifejacket or PFD for your activity.
Who gives way? When two boats are approaching each other, one has the right of way. The ‘give way’ rules depend on what type of boat you’re on and the type of boat you’re approaching. Make sure your actions are clear, taken in good time and do not take you close to other vessels. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse.
All boats (sail or power) overtaking from astern are responsible for keeping clear until finally past the boat being overtaken.
Always assume that the boat in front may not be aware of your presence or intentions.
Powerboats meeting head on must each alter their course to starboard to pass on the port side of each other.
The waters of New Zealand are marked for safe navigation using the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) A maritime buoyage system.
Port hand markersWhen entering the harbour, channel or marina, the red port (left) mark should be kept on the boat’s port (left) side, and the green starboard (right) mark on the boat’s starboard (right) side.
Starboard hand markers
When leaving the harbour, channel or marina the red mark should be kept on the boat’s starboard (right) side, and the green mark on the boat’s port (left) side.
Preferred channel to Port
If entering the harbour and approaching two channels, the preferred channel to port marker indicates which side the predominant channel is on. If you opt to take the preferred channel the marker should be kept on the boat’s starboard (right) side.
Preferred channel to Starboard
If entering the harbour and approaching two channels, the preferred channel to starboard marker indicates which side the predominant channel is on. If you opt to take the preferred channel the marker should be kept on the boat’s port (left) side.
Isolated danger marks
To mark a small danger area with navigable water all around it.
Safe water marks
This does not mark a danger, but is used to mark mid channels or the beginning of a fairway. There is safe water all around the mark.
Marks an area of special significance such as a cable or pipeline, a military exercise area, a recreation zone or marine farm or marine reserve.
These marks indicate the side of any point of interest or danger on which it is safe to pass. The deepest water in that area is on the named side of the mark.
Reserved area marker
A reserved area gives swimmers and Personal Water Craft (PWC) priority for certain activities such as skiing and jet skiing. Reserved areas are marked with black and white horizontal banded posts.
Waterski access lane marker
You may only ski from shore in a water ski access lane or reserved area; otherwise the 5 knot rule applies. Ski access lanes and reserved areas have no special status unless actually in use for skiing. Water skiers may exceed 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore within marked zones only.
To help other boaties understand what you’re doing and which way you’re heading while you’re underway, your boat must display lights from sunset to sunrise and in rain and fog. Not using lights is dangerous and could result in a fine.
Over 20 metres
Under 20 metres
Over 12 metres
Under 12 metres
Under 7 metres and speed over 7 knots
Under 7 metres and speed under 7 knots
Vessels that are anchored must show the top white light at night.
It is important to give way to shipping. The skipper of any power boat, sail boat, paddle craft or other recreational or commercial vessel, whether underway or at anchor, shall ensure that their craft does not impede the navigation of any vessel of 500 gross tonnes or more.
If the pilot vessel or patrol boat asks you to move from the shipping channels, you must move promptly.
Remember that large ships need plenty of room and will be travelling a lot faster than you think, as they enter our harbours. This also means they cannot stop quickly.
Do not cross the bow of a large ship, they cannot see you. Keep your distance.
Hawke's Bay has lots of recreational and commercial diving opportunities.
The following is a list of rules and recommendations:
The Code A Flag means: “I have a diver down, keep well clear at slow speed”.
The dive flag must not be less than 600 mm by 600 mm in size and must be visible from a distance of 200 metres.
All craft must reduce speed to a maximum of five knots within 200 metres of a Code A Flag.
This flag may also be attached to a small marker buoy towed by a diver.
It may also be flown by craft escorting long distance swimmers.
If you’re towing someone behind your boat, Jetski or other personal water craft, whether they’re on skis, a wakeboard or biscuit, you must have an observer aged 10 or over who can communicate the actions of the person being towed.
Anyone being towed must wear a lifejacket and you can only ski between sunrise and sunset.
As a skipper you need to:
• Keep to designated ski areas (or make sure you are more than 200 metres offshore).
• Always have an observer who is more than 10 years old.
• Always tow in an anti-clockwise direction.
The designated ski lanes and ski areas throughout the region give priority to these activities.
Hawke's Bay has some lovely spots for paddling, so here are some simple tips to keep you safe when you head out on the water.
Maritime rules require kayakers to carry a torch to prevent collision. However, holding a torch may prevent you from paddling effectively and therefore being seen! Wearing a head torch allows your arms to be free to paddle. Or, mounting an all-round white light on your rear deck above head-height means you will be visible from all directions.
Tips on how to make distress calls on the VHF radio and TRs, also known as trip reports. See a list of marine channels below.
Newer VHF Radios may have four digits.
For weather information via Nowcasting, please add 20 before the channel e.g. 2019, 2010 or 2079.
Knowing the weather and tide conditions can make all the difference to your day out on our harbours and lakes.
It is important to respect the weather. No matter what craft you are on, you should always check the marine weather forecast and know the tide times before you head out.
Tide tables can be found in many places; your local fishing shop, your local paper, Coastguard handbooks and, of course, online.
LINZ are responsible for New Zealand’s hydrographic information and produce our tide charts. You can download tide charts from the LINZ website (below) for all areas and for the whole year ahead.
See our interactive Navigation Safety Bylaws for all relevant Hawke's Bay Maps and exclusion zones.
Watch this video to ensure you cover the basics of safety before you head out.
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While every endeavour has been taken by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to ensure that the information on this website is accurate and up to date, Hawke's Bay Regional Council shall not be liable for any loss suffered through the use, directly or indirectly, of information on this website. Information contained has been assembled in good faith. Some of the information available in this site is from the New Zealand Public domain and supplied by relevant government agencies. Hawke's Bay Regional Council cannot accept any liability for its accuracy or content. Portions of the information and material on this site, including data, pages, documents, online graphics and images are protected by copyright, unless specifically notified to the contrary. Externally sourced information or material is copyright to the respective provider.
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