Alpine lakes lifejacket message not getting through

Roads and Maritime Services has launched a campaign to educate boaters in alpine or high country waters of when they need to wear a lifejacket.

Maritime Acting Manager Boating Safety and Regional Operations Craig Whitmore said since 1 November 2010, strengthened lifejacket laws in NSW have required lifejackets to be worn more often by those boating on alpine waters.

Alpine waters are defined as Lake Burrinjuck, Lake Eucumbene, Lake Jindabyne, Khancoban Pondage, Swampy Plains River, Mannus Lake, Googong Reservoir, Blowering Dam, and all navigable waters contained within the boundaries of the Kosciusko National Park as reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 – NSW.

“Unfortunately, the message is just not getting through – particularly among the people who go fishing on little tinnies or vessels that are less than 4.8m long. There are no exceptions, if you are on a small vessel, then you need to wear a lifejacket at all times,” Mr Whitmore said.

Other times when lifejackets need to be worn on alpine waters include:

  • By children under 12 years, when in an open area of a vessel 4.8m to 8m that is underway;
  • When wearing waders on a vessel;
  • When being towed on water skis or other towing devices;
  • When canoeing and kayaking;
  • When in off the beach sailing vessels such as a catamaran and centreboard boats;
  • When sailboarding;
  • When on a PWC.

Mr Whitmore said boating on alpine waters poses additional hazards to boating at other locations, with water temperatures averaging below 14 degrees for much of the year, and dropping to about 6 to 7 degrees in winter.

“If you unexpectedly fall into the water, you may quickly become incapacitated as your body reacts to the ‘cold shock’ of immersion,” he said.

“Cold shock is a physiological response to sudden immersion in cold water and leads to a massive rise in blood pressure and rapidity of breathing. This can cause a person to inhale water and drown in a matter of minutes, even seconds. The ability to perform basic function, like swimming, is greatly reduced.” 

“For this reason, wearing a lifejacket in cold water conditions is critical because if someone falls in, it will keep their head out of the water and prevent them from sinking – which makes inhaling water and drowning unlikely. This allows some time to regain composure and swim to safety of be rescued.”

As part of the alpine waters education campaign, Maritime has designed a brochure focusing solely on lifejacket requirements when boating on alpine waters which will be made available in local caravan parks, tackle shops and tourist information centres. The brochure will also be included in renewal notices for licences and registrations for people in the area.