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Don’t be a pain in the boat this long weekend – South Australia Police

Excitement for the Australia Day long weekend is making a splash, with SA police to continue monitoring river users while spreading water safety awareness.

South Australia Police (SAPOL) and Marine Safety Officers will have an increased presence on the water and at local boat ramps while the warmer weather continues, ensuring vessel operators are equipped with the most appropriate safety tools, including lifejackets.

Operation Riversafe, which commenced on 7 December 2023, will continue until 5 February 2024, promoting safety and compliance on the River Murray.

Officer in Charge of the Murray Mallee Local Service Area, Superintendent Cindy Healey encouraged everyone to respect the river, its environment and others.

“Whether you are boating, fishing, paddle boarding or skiing, you need to know the rules and regulations and abide by them,” she said.

“The River Murray is a precious resource, and our ability to enjoy it has been affected in recent years by floods, so we ask everyone to be responsible and courteous when using it.”

Sergeant Kevin Doecke will be among South Australia Police Water Operations Unit officers keeping water users safe this Australia Day long weekend, with vessel operators reminded police will be conducting drug and alcohol tests as part of Operation Riversafe.

Boat operators should be prepared for random checks by SAPOL officers to ensure boats are compliant with all required safety equipment. These checks could also include drug and alcohol tests, with operators required to have a blood-alcohol level below .05.

Life jackets are mandatory for anyone on motorised vessels shorter than 4.8 metres and for children under 12 on any vessel up to 12 metres in length. Paddle board riders are also required to wear a personal flotation device while on the water.

Furthermore, a four-knot speed restriction applies within 50 metres of a person or non-powered vessel and within 30 metres of any other vessel.

Marine Safety SA’s Manager Marine Safety and Compliance Gordon Panton has similarly urged skippers to know their knots and slow down around other vessels and people in the water.

“Marine Safety Officers will patrol the Murray River this long weekend, paying attention to vessels in restricted areas,” he said.

“We will be looking out for speeding but also making sure everyone has the appropriate safety gear with them – and penalties will apply for anyone caught doing the wrong thing.

“We don’t want to be stopping people from enjoying their day out by sending them ashore or issuing expiations, so make sure you are doing the right thing so everyone can enjoy the water safely.”

Likewise, Superintendent Healey said the increased police presence is not to discourage people from having fun on the water.

“During the school holidays and the Australia Day weekend, the SAPOL Water Operations Unit will be patrolling the river and enforcing the Harbours and Navigation Act and the Fisheries Act,” she added.

“They will also provide education and assistance to river users who need it.”

Meanwhile, the long weekend is also expected to draw thousands of people to popular beaches, including at Goolwa.

SAPOL will deploy trail bikes and All-Terrain Vehicles to support foot patrols in monitoring behaviour on coastal areas and traffic congestion on drive-on beaches, which now have a default speed limit of 40km/h or 25km/h when drivers are within 50 metres of pedestrians.

For more information on boating rules and regulations, visit: South Australian boating safety handbook (