Big spike in boating numbers brings important safety message

Press Release – Maritime New Zealand

Big spike in boating numbers brings important safety message

19 October 2016

New research released today during Safer Boating Week (October 14-21) suggests 51 percent of New Zealanders might have taken to the water in recreational boats last summer (2015-16).

“In what was one of our hottest summers, we had record numbers on the water in boats, kayaks, paddleboards and all sorts of craft on at least one day,” the Chair of the Safer Boating Forum*, Maritime NZ Deputy Director Lindsay Sturt said.

“Most summers, about 30 percent of Kiwis take part in recreational boating. What likely caused the jump to 51 percent was the weather. More people probably had an occasional boating trip with family or friends because there was more great weather,” Mr Sturt said.

“New Zealand is a nation of boaties. It seems about one-third to half of our population takes to the water in 1 million recreational craft.

“Those big numbers mean boat safety is really important, as it means more occasional boaties on the water not understanding how to be safe, and without the right equipment.

“Last summer we found fewer people reported wearing a lifejacket all the time they were on the water. We do not know if they did not have lifejackets or if they just did not wear them.

“Whatever the reason, we want to get the message across, ‘always wear a lifejacket when you are on the water’.

“If you’re the ‘skipper’ taking friends or family, or anyone else out on the water, make sure everyone is wearing a lifejacket.”

Those most likely to wear lifejackets were kayakers – 81 percent reported they always wore lifejackets. They are also the biggest group of boaties, the fastest growing, most likely to be women (52 percent), and the youngest.

Least likely to always wear lifejackets were powerboat users – 52 percent – down from 61 percent in 2014. Powerboat users are the second largest group of boaties, 64 percent of whom are male, and are the oldest.

Over time, two trends in recreational boating fatalities are telling. It is likely that two-thirds of fatalities could have been avoided if lifejackets had been worn, and 90 percent of fatalities were men.

“Young people using kayaks and other small craft are a new, important target audience for us,” Mr Sturt said. “That’s because there are simply so many of them on the water, and the number keeps growing.

“However, our primary audience for Safer Boating Week remains men aged 30-60, using boats up to 6 metres, who overestimate their abilities and underestimate the risk. Sadly, that’s because they are the most likely to have an accident, and for the accident to be fatal.”

Link to research report Summary of Recreational Boating Research Conducted by Research New Zealand

Safer Boating Week, October 14-21

Safer Boating Week is the week before Labour Day weekend, the traditional start of recreational boating in much of the country. The aim is to encourage boaties to take simple steps before getting back on the water: Prep your boat, Check your Gear, Know the rules.

Prep – service the engine, check and change the fuel, check the battery and just generally give the boat a good onceover.

Check – make sure your lifejackets are still fit for purpose and you have enough. Service any inflatable lifejackets and ensure you have two reliable forms of communication equipment.

Know – ensure you know the “rules of the road” on the water, and check your local bylaws to make sure you understand what the requirements are in your area.

For lots of information about what is happening around the country go to Safer Boating NZ Facebook and

* Safer Boating Forum
The Forum was established in 2000 to coordinate and implement recreational boating safety initiatives. It is made up of government agencies and local government, water safety and recreational boating organisations, and the marine industry. The Forum’s work is aimed at reducing boating injuries and fatalities and improving boat safety behaviour. Maritime NZ chairs the Forum and members include Coastguard, Jet Boating NZ, Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers, local and central government, NZ Fishing News, NZ Jet Sports Boating Association, NZ Marine Industry Association, NZ Underwater Association, Surf Lifesaving NZ, Waka Ama NZ, Water Safety NZ, WaterSafe Auckland, White Water NZ, and Yachting NZ.


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