Marine Legislation Amendment Bill 2016

22nd June 2016

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 13:02 :20 ): I make a contribution to debate on the Marine Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. I am particularly pleased to follow the member for Cessnock in this debate who would have a lot of personal watercraft in the creeks in his electorate. I imagine that the Temporary Speaker would also see a lot of this activity in his Northern Tablelands electorate. As the electorates of Swansea, Charlestown and Lake Macquarie are situated predominantly around the largest saltwater lake in Australia, we are well aware of the use and misuse of personal watercraft. This bill is timely, perhaps a little behind community expectations, but the Government is acting and I thank it for doing so.

As with most things, a minority is causing a problem for the law-abiding and more sensible users of our waterways. It cannot be denied that personal watercraft are popular. It is not something that interests me but they are fun. I know lots of people who use them and they generally do so responsibly. Recently I have been making inquiries around the area but over the years I have received many complaints, particularly in my time on council and subsequently as a State member, about the abuse of these vehicles. It might be inadvertent, but we are increasingly seeing them used in a way that is designed to cause impact on people around coastal residential areas and in other boating areas and to intimidate other water users.

Maritime officers have told me that while jetskiing is booming in popularity, the vast majority of people using them on Lake Macquarie do the right thing, behave responsibly and respect other people's rights to enjoy a day on the water. In fact, they tell me the only time we have significant problems is during holiday season when visitors from Sydney arrive—probably from Cessnock as well. That is when we see an increase in jet skis being used at high speeds in and around areas where they should not be, including near swimmers, kayakers and other boats. Thankfully, these are not common occurrences. These hoon elements are a minority, but having powers in place so that the problem can be appropriately dealt with in a timely manner is appropriate. Having said that, it was quite disturbing to see the results of a recent enforcement campaign in Sydney, which found around 25 per cent of jet skiers were not complying with current laws. Even more disturbing was that of all the local residents and other waterway users surveyed, 45 per cent said they had witnessed antisocial behaviour by jet ski riders. Some found that unusual, but I would not think those who live in most of the populated areas on our coastal waterways would find it all that surprising.

Jet skis are increasing in popularity and registrations are up by about 10 per cent on previous years. A retailer in my electorate is reportedly doing good business selling new models, which are now priced much more cheaply than they used to be—this is very similar to what is happening with the cheap imports and the affordability of motorcycles—and there is also more wealth in some of our communities. I see no reason why those operating such vessels on the water are not subject to the laws pertaining to on our roads, particularly when it comes to speed in certain sensitive zones, continual breaches of the law, and drug and alcohol offences. I also see no reason why those who continue to pose dangers to people around them, create unnecessary noise or refuse to comply with reasonable behaviour and the law should not be held to account with a range of sanctions, not just fines. People who continually hoon around in cars on our roads face the prospect of having their cars impounded and other strong penalties. It seems very reasonable that those who continue to flout laws on the water should face similar penalties and sanctions. I commend the bill to the House.

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