Boating costs in VIC to soar

VICTORIA’S 167,543 recreational boat owners are about to be swamped by a wave of 174 new regulations.

[ See discussion on the OZPWC Forums – ]

The new regulations include on-the-spot fines of up to $611.

The cost of obtaining a boating licence is also set to surge from $54.40 to $643, with another $538 to tow a waterskier or kids on a tube.

A draft of the new safety regulations imposes fines ranging from $122, for failing to “ensure fishing lines are retrieved” when a boat approaches, to $611 for failing to ensure a boat’s identification marks are displayed.

The existing fine for failing to wear a lifejacket will skyrocket from $195 to $611.

This compares with a $165 fine for a car occupant not wearing a seatbelt. Anyone challenging an on-the-spot fine faces court-imposed penalties of up to $2443.

The legislation backing the regulations will come into effect on July 1 or earlier.

Boating Industry Association of Victoria president David Heyes said the regulations were just a revenue-raising exercise by the Government.

“He (Ports Minister Denis Napthine) will have anarchy on his hands,” Mr Heyes said.

“The Coalition made an election commitment to make Victoria a leader in recreational boating, but all they’ve done is propose all these new penalties and delay investing in new ramps and other infrastructure.”

Mr Heyes said the Government was doing its best to cripple a $2.17 billion industry, run by 288 mainly family businesses.

But Dr Napthine accused the boating industry of making “false and misleading statements” relating to the marine regulations.

Dr Napthine said Victorian boaters would not be forced to pay exorbitant fines or licence fees.

“The vast majority of infringement notices in the proposed regulations are subject to marginal increases of less than half a penalty unit ($61),” Dr Napthine said.

However the draft regulations shows:

ON-the-spot fines will rise by up to 316 per cent.

THE number of marine offences will rise from 93 to 174.

MOST of the 81 new offences will impose on-the-spot fines of $153, $244 or $611.

The Government will also allow council officers to issue penalty notices to boat owners for the first time.

Mr Heyes said only Parks Victoria and Victoria Police could currently issue penalties.

“Now we’ll have councils, who get to keep the revenue, issuing people with fines while they’ve tied up for 10 minutes to get some fish and chips at the jetty.”

The Department of Transport has also called for mandatory training and a practical test for boat-licence applicants.

Dr Napthine said government licence fees would remain unchanged.

However, the department estimates licence applicants face costs of $643 for training and testing, which would be run by registered training providers, not the government.

Anyone wanting a towing or jet ski endorsement would face another $538 in costs.

Boat drivers currently pay $23.80 for a knowledge test and an annual $30.60 renewal fee, and no extra endorsement is required to tow a skier.

The department said the higher fees were needed to curb a surge in boating injuries.

While the department’s analysis found boating deaths had declined in the past decade, injuries had surged.

The BIAV dismissed the department’s injury analysis, citing a 2009-10 Monash University Injury Research Institute report that found boating injury rates were lower than injury rates for dancing and golf.

Country Alliance spokesman Neil Jenkins said the Government’s argument was flawed.

“It seems to be the case of an expensive solution looking for a problem,” Mr Jenkins said.

A BIAV analysis found the department had included many cases of non-boating injuries in its safety analysis, including one case of a body-boarder being swept out to sea.

One of the key reports cited by the department to back its case stated: “Activities covered by this report include recreational boating, water skiing, PWC (or jet ski) riding, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rafting and kite surfing.

Scuba diving and snorkelling were included as it is not known whether boats were involved in the activity.”

Article courtesy of the WeeklyTimesNow