Folau Malu (Journey Safely) programme widens its net
Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 43, April 2013
The programme is designed to teach safe boating practices, including wearing lifejackets, having communications equipment on board, avoiding alcohol and checking the marine weather forecast.
Community members complete a Coastguard day skipper course in one of two languages (Tongan and Samoan) before heading out on the water and into their communities with the safe boating message.
MNZ Maritime Officer Alistair Thomson says the courses also reinforce messages around overloading boats, and that conditions in New Zealand are significantly different from the islands.
“The water’s cold here in comparison and the weather changes really quickly. Squalls can blow through in a hurry and then you get wind, waves and rain – things can go from pretty nice to pretty awful very quickly.”
Despite concerted efforts in the community across south Auckland, Alistair says he’s still seeing risky behavior on the water.
“We’ve had five church ministers across 10 denominations in south Auckland promoting safe boating messages, and over 200 participants through the Folau Malu programme, which is fantastic – but it’s immensely frustrating that we’re still seeing people heading out without lifejackets, in overloaded boats.”
However, Alistair says the messages are getting through to some, with around a hundred people in the Samoan and Tongan communities moving through the course in the first few months of 2013.
“For much of the community, boat safety comes second to the need to go out and catch your dinner, but recently we had a woman who’d been a boatie for 20 years come through, and this was her first boating course. She had thought lifejackets were too hot and bulky, so didn’t bother with them – she’s a convert now though!”
Former Navy diver Rob Hewitt, who survived four days and three nights in the water off the Kapiti coast in 2006, recently delivered a Folau Malu class in Porirua. Alistair says it’s great to extend the programme further south and to have the messages delivered by someone with Rob’s mana. “Here’s a guy with an amazing survival story, who’s very close to his community, well-respected and a hell of a nice guy to boot – he’s been awesome.”
In addition to the community day skipper course, a small number of people who have been through the course are appointed as MNZ volunteer safe boating advisors. They then join a nationwide network of about 180 advisors, who liaise with regional council harbourmasters and Coastguard to provide boaties with safety advice and information.
More information about the Folau Malu programme and day skipper courses is available through your local Coastguard.