Rise in jet ski licences and complaints in Port Stephens prompts NSW Maritime operation

INFLUX: NSW Maritime completed a compliance and education operations in Port Stephens this month focused on jet skis.
INFLUX: NSW Maritime completed a compliance and education operations in Port Stephens this month focused on jet skis.

One penalty notice and seven official cautions were issued to boaties and jet ski riders in Port Stephens and the Myall Lakes during a NSW Maritime education and compliance operation earlier this month.

An state-wide 92 per cent increase in new jet ski licences since May 2020 prompted Maritime's ride safe, ride smart operation on March 13-14.

In the Port and Myall Lakes across the two days, Maritime's boating education and safety officers make 78 vessel and jet ski checks.

"This resulted in one penalty notice, seven official cautions and 112 boating education officer interactions. Saturday was a much busier day due to the weather and Sunday was very wet with minimal boaters about," a NSW Maritime spokesperson said.

Andrew Mogg, NSW Maritime's acting executive director, said the increase in jet ski licences has led to an influx of novice riders hitting popular waterways.

He added that in the last 12 months, there has been an increase in complaints about jet skis from residents in areas such as Lake Macquarie, Tweed Heads and Port Stephens.

"While the majority of jet skiers do the right thing, our own data tells us there are more people on skis interacting with other boaters and users of our waterways," he said.

The increase of visitors to the Port's beaches, water ways and boat ramps in 2020, largely prompted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, did not go unnoticed by residents or authorities.

INFLUX: NSW Maritime completed a compliance and education operations in Port Stephens this month focused on jet skis.

INFLUX: NSW Maritime completed a compliance and education operations in Port Stephens this month focused on jet skis.

Maritime have run a series of compliance and education operations in waters from Port Stephens to Tweed Heads since August 2020.

Between August 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, boating safety officers conducted 193 compliance patrols in Port Stephens resulting in 2292 vessel checks, 74 penalty notices and 159 official cautions. Twenty-six per cent of all checks were on jet skis with 35 per cent issued penalty notices and 36 per cent given official cautions.

Throughout summer, water police issued 16 infringement notices to jet ski riders in Port Stephens. One of these fines was for operating the water craft without a licence, three were for speed offences and 12 were due to the required behaviour stickers not being fixed to the jet ski.

The peak summer tourist period in the Port sparked fierce and ongoing debate from the community about jet ski use off busy beaches, noise pollution and fears the vessels drive marine life away.

Throughout summer, the Examiner was inundated with letters on both sides of the debate.

This month, prominent Port Stephens lobbyists Frank Future, from Imagine Cruises, and John 'Stinker' Clarke, author and long-time fishing columnist, weighed into the jet ski debate.

While the pair don't often agree on some ideas when it comes to Port Stephens, they both agree that jet skis within the port should be regulated, if not banned.

Mr Future said that commercial vessels are limited on the water to 25 knots, yet there appeared to be no speed limit for jet skis.

Mr Clarke, a lifelong boatie around Fingal Bay, said that while he acknowledged there were many responsible owners, a growing proportion of riders had very little regard for other water users and animal life.

Jet ski riders are required to keep a safe distance from other water users, maintain and safe speed, avoid irregular driving, including jumping waves, carry a personal watercraft licence at all times and wear a lifejacket or risk a $250 on the spot fine.