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Our people - Salvatore "Sonny" Ali

13 Mar 2019

Our people - Salvatore "Sonny" Ali

Sonny Ali

In our ongoing series profiling our people and their mahi (work), we talk to our new harbourmaster Salvatore "Sonny" Ali about keeping a safe environment for commercial and recreational boaters in the district . . .

 What is your job and what does it involve?

I’m the Council harbourmaster. I’m responsible for ensuring navigational safety within the region, up to 12-nautical miles off the coast. I work with commercial and recreational boaters to make sure everyone has a safe marine environment to operate in. On the commercial side, this means providing safety information to vessel agents and operators so visiting ships know the rules. I also work with the port to ensure we meet our obligations under the Port & Harbour Safety Code. On the recreational side, I’m responsible for educating the public on marine safety as well as enforcing the navigation and safety bylaws.

What do you enjoy about the job?

I grew up on boats and have always worked around the water. Using my knowledge and experience to enhance the safety of the maritime community is really important to me. To quote The Wind in the Willows ‘there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’ Being harbourmaster lets me do just that even if I don’t have a boat of my own yet.

What are the challenges of the job?

There hasn’t been much public education or outreach over the last few years and that’s my biggest focus at the moment. Eventually I’d like to increase bylaw enforcement as well. I think it’s especially important to enforce speed limits and make sure small vessels aren’t impeding the big ships as they come up the channel. It can take up to a kilometre for one of these ships to stop, so it’s the responsibility of smaller, more manoeuvrable vessels to keep clear.  

How could the public make it easier for you to get the job done?

Don’t exceed 5 knots in the rivers! We get quite a few complaints around people exceeding the 5 knot rule up the Waimata, especially on jet skis. Maintaining a safe speed is one of the cardinal rules of being a good boatie and excessive wakes in the river can lead to erosion damage to the banks.

How do you like to spend your time out of the council?

We’ve only moved to Gisborne this year from Tauranga, so we are still exploring and learning about the area. My 1 and 5 year old children love the beaches and we try to get out and enjoy some of the local treks on weekends.