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Laid back Northern Territory boating laws slammed as an accident waiting to happen

A retiring politician has slammed the Northern Territory’s surprisingly lax boating laws, calling them ‘nonsensical’.

Gary Higgins’ own party, the Country Liberals, recently promised it would never introduce boating licences or blood-alcohol limits in the Top End and that is the cross-party consensus in the territory.

Mr Higgins is calling for the laws to be strengthened in line with all other Australian jurisdictions before more people get hurt.

Retiring politician, Gary Higgins, has slammed the Top End's laid back boating laws, calling them 'nonsensical'

Retiring politician, Gary Higgins, has slammed the Top End’s laid back boating laws, calling them ‘nonsensical’ 

‘It sends the wrong message. I know a lot of people in both political parties won’t address this issue and it’s because of politics, not what we really need to do for the Territory,’ the member for Daly told the ABC.

‘Until we actually admit this is something that we have to do and start to implement something, we run the risk of having accidents.’

The idea gained some traction back in 2017, after a report was handed down by Chief Justice Trevor Riley, on Northern Territory alcohol policies.

‘The person in charge of a vessel in motion should be below .05, we thought it was a reasonable suggestion,’ Chief Minister Michael Gunner said at the time.

‘We do it on land and now we’re doing it at sea.’

But since then politicians have backed down on making the change and the unchecked alcohol laws remain in place.

Mark Casey (left) and his son Andrew, 14, survived a night in crocodile-infested waters in March

Mark Casey (left) and his son Andrew, 14, survived a night in crocodile-infested waters in March 

The father and son had gone on a fishing trip on the Norther Territory's Daly River when a crocodile knocked the engine off their boat

The father and son had gone on a fishing trip on the Norther Territory’s Daly River when a crocodile knocked the engine off their boat 

‘The government raised it because they are aware of their liability, but among the community there was a resounding, no!’ Ronald Vokolos, the manager of one of Darwin’s largest tackle stores Fishing and Outdoor World, told Daily Mail Australia.

‘People saw it as the Northern Territory moving towards being a nanny state.’

Mr Vokolos explained that because of the Northern Territory’s small population and large waterways accidents are rare, and most customers are not in favour of fishing and boating licences, vessel registration or alcohol limits.

Locals see it as regulation for regulation’s sake because the fees generated by such a program would barely cover the costs to implement it, he said.

‘Our water and fisheries enforcement is done by police, rather than rangers of parks and wildlife as in other states so if they get a report of a Quintrex Top Ender with a 115 Yamaha doing something wrong, well there are about 1000 of them so it’s not practical to enforce.’








A brazen fisherman was seen wading in the shallow water at Shady Camp, a popular boat launching spot in the Northern Territory

A brazen fisherman was seen wading in the shallow water at Shady Camp, a popular boat launching spot in the Northern Territory

Many Territorians who rely on the tourism dollar also feel increased regulation would be a hassle for inbound visitors and could turn them off coming. 

But Mr Higgins does not agree.  

He once had to inform a woman that her husband had been killed in a boating accident and that traumatic experience had led him to push for a boating accreditation program.

‘There’s nothing to stop your 12-year-old son driving the boat while mum and dad are intoxicated – these are issues that we have to admit occur,’ Mr Higgins said.

But with an election set to be held on August 22, and all major Northern Territory parties against the notion of changing the rules, it’s likely to be some time before any changes are made.

The Country Liberal Party recently promised they would never introduce boating licences or blood-alcohol limits in the Northern Territory

The Country Liberal Party recently promised they would never introduce boating licences or blood-alcohol limits in the Northern Territory

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