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Safer Beaches and Waterways: Clamping Down on Jet Skis

January 30th, 2014



Enforcement and Regulation Proposals to deal with the growing problem of Jet Skis / Personal Water Craft (PWC’s).

SAFER BEACHES AND WATERWAYS CLAMPING DOWN ON JET SKIS. Issues paper by Martin Foley MP, State Labor Member for Albert Park – covering the beaches from Sandridge to Elwood.

Tragedy Strikes Home

A Port Melbourne Family is grieving following the loss of a father and partner in an incident that was totally avoidable. Police are investigating the circumstances of the death of a Port Melbourne man following an incident where two men riding a jet ski collided with a swimmer near Lagoon Pier in Port Melbourne on the afternoon of February 24. The Jet Ski initially did not stop – and returned only after being waved down by nearby fisherman. The area around Lagoon Pier is a “swimming only” area where boating of any form is banned.

After being taken to the Alfred Hospital the man died over the week end. This is a tragedy for all those concerned. The Police investigation is continuing. Nothing we can say or do will ease this family’s grief.

But we can and should heed this incident – together with the rising toll of injuries and near misses – to take stronger measures to make our waterways safe from the growing clashes between swimmers and Jet Skis (or Personal Water Crafts [PWC’s] as they are more properly known.) What follows are my suggestions on a package of changes needed to the “boating zones” having been in operation for 2 summers.

Jet Skis are increasingly powerful and popular vessels that in the wrong hands are dangerous and now shown to be potentially fatal. The approach we take to these machines on our bays and waterways – especially when they clash with swimmers – needs to be based around the primacy of recreational swimming as the main use for our increasingly busy beaches.

The evidence available shows that in these two years there has been inadequate enforcement of current regulation. The Government and enforcement agencies need to take priority action on enforcing the current rules. There are also gaps emerging in the insurance and regulatory and licensing regime that cause those who fall into them personal loss and financial hardship. Add to this the poorly supported culture of education and lack of recognition of the rights of other bay and water users amongst elements of the growing Jet Ski community and we have a case for urgent reform.

When brought together these risks mean that the safety of bay swimmers exposed to Jet Skis is increasingly at risk. The flaws in the registration, licensing, insurance and education regime means that accidents when they do occur are all too readily accompanied by ineffective support and a legal minefield with outcomes depending on the luck of the insurance status of the owner of the Jet Ski.

The fact that a tragedy has now occurred in – it appears – a swimming only zone on a hot afternoon on a crowded beach immediately reinforces the need for the enforcement of current laws. This is the most urgent area in need of attention from the enforcement agencies – Parks Victoria (as the Waterway manager) and Victoria Police. These agencies need to make this a priority.

I am calling for a combination of immediate and long term measures to address the issues of:

* Enforcement,
* Tougher regulation
* And changes to licensing, insurance and education measures.

Together these can help to make our waterways and beaches safer and help prevent another tragedy.

Martin Foley MP
State Labor Member for Albert Park.


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