SunLive – Coast Guard seeks clarification on “closed” river bar


New categories to describe the maneuverability of the Whakatāne River rudder have been criticized by Coastguard Whakatāne members as confusing and dangerous, but the Bay of Plenty Regional Council says the new terminology is meant to simplify rudder conditions. for boaters.

Until October 16, the regional council’s senior maritime officer used four categories to describe the conditions at the entrance to the river – passable, passable with caution, impractical and closed. It has now been changed to doable, doable with caution (increased risk) and closed (very high risk).

Whakatāne Coast Guard President Isaac Tait said that by no longer distinguishing between closed and impractical terms, it means that the coast guard is no longer able to prevent people from crossing the river. helm in an emergency, as experienced skippers have always treated the term impractical to mean they could cross at their own risk.

He says the coast guard should be given the ability to shut down the bar completely if necessary.

“It is not necessarily because of the bad weather, it can be because of an oil spill, the police can recover a body, it can be several things. Before, everyone knew that if the bar was closed you couldn’t go in or out, you had to wait for it to reopen. It is normally only closed for a short time.

“But now when it’s closed, it’s the same as the old ‘impractical’, meaning ‘we suggest you don’t go out, but you can get out.’ So if a school bus left the bridge and that there were bodies floating on the river and we didn’t want to have traffic, we didn’t have the ability to close it, because people are going to say, “Well, it’s still closed but people always come in and go out. ”We don’t know how we would close the bar if we needed to.”

Mr Tait also objects to how quickly the change was rushed.

“It would have been nice to have a month or two to announce these changes in the newspapers and on the radio so that people were aware. That’s not the wording I’m against, I don’t mind them calling it raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries; we just wanted to have time to educate our audience and have the ability to legally shut down the bar when we need to.

He says the regional council originally wanted to stop calling the bar, but the coast guard objected.

“Nobody understands, because it has been working well for 120 years without any problems. Why, all of a sudden, has this changed?

“We have all of our large rural communities here listening to Radio 1XX every morning to find out about bar conditions so they can decide whether or not to hook up their trailer. If we don’t have a show, these guys are going to hook up their trailers, come into town and then they will try anyway, and that was our concern.

He says the regional council wanted to change it to a simple open or closed one.

“There would be no moderation between the two, so you couldn’t understand the seascape. We got rid of that idea, but now they’ve done it, which is just as confusing. “

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Regulatory Services General Manager Sarah Omundsen said the terminology had been changed due to confusion around the difference between impractical and closed.

“The master of the regional port wanted to avoid any suggestion that an unusable bar was safe to cross despite the high risks to the safety of navigation. Thus, the categories have been simplified. We have received good feedback from boaters on this change, and hope that removing any ambiguity will make it easier and safer for everyone. “

Ms Omundsen says bar registration is merely an advisory service provided by the regional council’s maritime team, not legal instruction.

“The decision to cross the bar is ultimately up to the captain of a ship. However, there could be serious legal consequences for a skipper if an accident occurs while crossing a bar at a time when the maritime team has given a warning that the bar is closed.

Mr. Tait said calling it “closed, but the boats can still go out” made no sense.

“Whereas before it was impractical, which meant ‘everyone suggests you don’t go out but nobody stops you’, and then we had the option to close the bar, where you couldn’t legally go out.

“We’ve answered a lot of calls with confused boats because they’ve seen people come out when it’s closed and they think they can’t get out, but they can actually get out.”

When asked if the Coast Guard had been consulted on the change, Ms Omundsen replied that no public consultation was required, given that this is a relatively minor change and things simplified. for boaters.

“However, we made sure that the changes were widely publicized on the radio, in local newspapers and with leaflets in Whakatāne Harbor. We hope that if anyone has any questions about the changes, they will contact the regional council maritime team.