A proposed rule requiring power boat operators to complete a boating safety course faced fierce opposition Wednesday at a packed meeting at the Hawaii Big Game Fishing Club at Honokohau Harbor.
Asked who opposed the rule during the state Department of Land and Natural Resources hearing, all 85 attendees raised their hands without hesitation. No one testified in favor of the proposal.
Fourteen people testified against the “poorly written,” “heavy handed” and “big waste of money” rule. Several promised to fight the measure they said would have adverse social, economic and cultural effects.
Besides being an “ill-conceived” rule, Rick Gaffney, of the Hawaii Fishing and Boating Association, said it was illegal because community input was not sought prior to its drafting. He questioned whether DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement could enforce the rule, and if a detailed cost benefit analysis was done. He also warned the rule would impact long-standing traditions in the community, such as the Queen Liliuokalani Canoe Race, which requires more than 100 escort boats that would need certificates.
Many said licensing was not the answer, but education was important. They said driver’s licensing programs are not effective, judging by the number of accidents and roadside memorials on area roads. Former DLNR wildlife biologist Miles Nakahara suggested having an education program like the state’s free hunter course instead of the proposed rule.
The proposed rule requires operators to possess a certificate showing completion of a state and National Association of State Boating Law Administrators course.
The rule sets a minimum age of 15 for operating a power-driven vessel unsupervised. Those with Coast Guard-issued licenses would be exempt as would those operating “thrill craft” in authorized zones. DLNR said it wouldn’t enforce the rule, which establishes a fine between $50 and $1,000 for violators, until two years after its effective date.
Kona Boat Rentals owner Eric McCormick thinks the rule needs further discussion and revision, including removing ambiguity, if it’s to be adopted. As written, he said his 11-year-old company would be out of business, and he’s not the only one.
“People will lose their jobs, many other businesses will lose our expense dollars, including the rent, ramp fees, insurance, gas, repairs, advertising, etc.” he said. “This is not only a financial burden on our community, but will require increased government personnel.
“A rule that affects this percentage of our population needs further clarification if not complete withdrawal.”
McCormick opposes requiring a license for renting or leasing power boats. Like many testifiers, McCormick wanted to know if Hawaii would recognize approved boat licensing courses from other states and countries.
He asked if there would be an exemption for boaters who have been providing for their families for years, including those who have literacy or financial issues. What about those who are in Hawaii for less than 45 days, are part-time residents or are vacationers? He questioned if there should be gradual phasing in of the rule to allow compliance or a tiered compliance based on age.