Safer Boating Week makes a splash

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 47, December 2014 - January 2015

A mixture of serious and fun activities marked the start of this summer’s boating season, with agencies around the country banding together to launch New Zealand’s first Safer Boating Week.

The week, which ran from 17 to 24 October, coincided with the lead-up to Labour Weekend – the traditional start to the summer boating season.

The week was an initiative from the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum – a group of agencies with responsibility for boating safety, including MNZ, Water Safety, Coastguard, Coastguard Boating Education, regional councils, Surf Lifesaving NZ, Accident Compensation Corporation and other national and regional water safety agencies.

Famous statues wore lifejackets for the cause, boating safety leaders donned lifejackets and leapt off the Wellington wharf, photos of people wearing lifejackets in unusual settings proliferated on social media, and maritime experts dispensed advice, tips and free safety checks at boat ramps.

Forum chair and MNZ Deputy Director Lindsay Sturt said the week had been characterised by light-hearted activity underpinned by a very serious message.

“We know around two-thirds of all recreational boating deaths could have been prevented if lifejackets had been worn. On average, 15 people die in boating accidents in New Zealand each year, which translates to 10 people a year whose lives could have been saved had they been wearing a lifejacket,” said Lindsay.

“While we recognise that boating is a much-loved recreational activity for many New Zealanders, it’s important people remember that it does carry risk and they need to take safety seriously.”

Lindsay said the week aimed to help boaties get ready for the boating season.

“Too often we see boaties head back out on the water after their boats and gear have been sitting in the garage all winter. Batteries are flat, lifejackets don’t fit any more, gas canisters on inflatable lifejackets have corroded, fuel has been sitting in the tank and flares have passed their use-by date. In worst cases, wear and tear on boats has worsened over the winter and there are water integrity or safety issues.

“This leads to a lot of unnecessary rescue activity, but more seriously it can lead to accidents and even fatalities.”

Lindsay said Safer Boating Week aimed to remind boaties to do three simple things before going out on the water this summer:

  • Prepare your boat – get your boat serviced, replace fuel, check batteries, give your boat a really good once over and check for damage or corrosion.
  • Check your gear – make sure lifejackets are in good working order and fit well, check gas canisters on inflatable lifejackets and expiry dates on distress beacons and flares, check batteries, and make sure you have two reliable ways to call for help that will work when wet.
  • Know the rules – as well as making sure skippers know the rules of the road on the water, check the bylaws for the region you are in – they do vary around the country. Bylaw information is available on regional council websites, or smartphone users can access it via the MarineMate app.

Safer Boating Week was also a great opportunity for collaboration and alignment of boating safety activity, Lindsay said. “We are very conscious that there is a huge amount of effort that goes on around the country every year in the lead-up to and throughout the summer boating season. Our boating safety partners in the regions – Coastguard, police, regional councils and harbourmasters – all do an enormous amount of work to keep our waters safe.

“What Safer Boating Week aims to do is to bring that activity under one umbrella for a time – to give those messages a national push, and increase awareness and overall effectiveness.”

Lindsay said MNZ took a coordination role and was pleased with the way the week rolled out. “We got good media coverage and lots of activity on social media – which ensured our messages reached a larger number of people than our traditional audiences.

“Importantly, we also reached a lot of people face to face. During the lead-up to Safer Boating Week, our Forum partners visited retailers and boat shows and provided information about the week.

“And during the week itself, there was a really good presence at boat ramps. MNZ’s maritime officers around the country joined up with police, Coastguard and harbourmasters, and in some regions free safety checks of boats or lifejackets were offered.

“We want to make Safer Boating Week an annual event and will be looking at ways we can support the roll-out of these important safety services as widely as possible,” said Lindsay.

MNZ activities

Photobooths and photo competition

Photo booth
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
Photobooths in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch snapped people wearing lifejackets.

What: MNZ ran a photo competition for the week, asking people to send in photos of themselves or their families and friends wearing lifejackets. Photobooths were also set up in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown and people asked to put on lifejackets and pose for a series of fun pics. At the photobooths, maritime officers were on hand to promote safety messages and hand out safe boating advice.

Why: Both activities encouraged people to get involved with Safer Boating Week, to have some fun and generate good images to promote lifejacket wearing. The photobooths also provided the chance to have serious conversations about boating safety.

Wharf jump

Jumping from wharf
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
Ten senior boating safety leaders leapt off the wharf in Wellington to launch Safer Boating Week.

What: To launch Safer Boating Week, 10 senior boating safety leaders, including MNZ’s Director Keith Manch and the chief executives of Water Safety NZ, the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Tourism Industry Association, jumped off the wharf in Wellington wearing lifejackets.

Why: The number 10 represents the average number of people who could be saved every year in New Zealand if everyone wore lifejackets when they went out boating.

On average, two-thirds of the 15 people who die in boating accidents in New Zealand each year could have been saved if they wore a lifejacket. The line-up of senior representatives from a range of agencies involved in water and boating safety also highlighted the collaborative approach that safety agencies take to improving boating practices.

Statues for life(jackets)

Pania of the reef
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
Napier City Council Environmental Management Officer Paul Dunford (left), harbourmaster Phil Norman and MNZ Maritime Officer Andrew Lo.

What: MNZ, along with regional councils and trusts throughout the country, teamed up with lifejacket manufacturer Survitec Group to put lifejackets on some of our most-recognised icons to remind boaties to “Get it on, or it’s no good”.

Why: This was a fun campaign that carried a very serious message. Putting lifejackets on these figures provided a striking visual reminder to boaties everywhere to wear their lifejackets.

Where and who: Queenstown, William Rees; Nelson, Seafarer’s Memorial; Wellington, Solace of the Wind and John Plimmer; Napier, A Wave in Time, the Spirit of Napier and Pania of the Reef; Hamilton, Captain Hamilton and Riff Raff; Opunake, Peter Snell; Auckland, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson.

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