More New Zealanders on the water

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 48, June 2015

The number of New Zealanders heading out on the water is increasing, but they’re not doing everything they can to keep safe, the latest research commissioned by Maritime New Zealand shows.

The 2014 Research New Zealand survey found nearly one in three (29%) of New Zealanders aged 18 and over are involved in recreational boating – up from around one in four at the last survey.

This means approximately 930,000 adult New Zealanders skipper or spend time on recreational vessels.

The current estimate of the total number of recreational vessels owned in New Zealand is around 960,000, with over half of these being kayaks/canoes and power boats under 6m.

Kayaks/canoes are the most popular recreational vessel (320,000 reporting owning or using a kayak or canoe), followed by power boats under 6m (224,000) and dinghies (192,000).

Recreational Vessel Usage


Attitudes and behaviour towards recreational boating safety

Maritime NZ Deputy Director and New Zealand Safer Boating Forum Chair, Lindsay Sturt, says the study shows a large gap between what people know to be safe behaviour and how they actually behave.

“The research found 88% of all New Zealanders believe lifejackets should always be worn on recreational boats, and 80% of boaties share that view.

“When it comes to actually wearing a lifejacket, 70% of boaties say they do all the time – but on-water surveys show it’s more like half.

“Boaties need to start walking the safety talk,” says Lindsay.

“We know that around two-thirds of people who die in boating accidents might have been saved if they wore lifejackets.”

Graph Graph Graph Graph

Lindsay says there is a similar discrepancy when it comes to carrying communications equipment to call for help.

“Two-thirds of boaties believe it’s very important to carry two ways to call for help, such as a marine radio or distress beacon – this is what we urge boaties to do at all times. However, only half say they actually do.”

Almost one-third (29%) said they never carried two ways to call for help when they went boating.

A cellphone in a waterproof bag was the most commonly carried communication device (56%), followed by flares (41%), a cellphone not in a plastic bag (29%), a distress beacon (27%) and a marine radio fixed to the vessel (26%).

Larger vessel users were significantly more likely to carry at least two forms of communication than smaller vessel users (81% of power boat users and 66% of sail boat users, compared with 37% of other vessel users and 20% of kayakers/canoers).

Lindsay says this is particularly concerning given that smaller vessels are at higher risk of capsize than larger vessels.

“You are simply more vulnerable in a smaller boat,” he says.

“The vast majority of fatalities take place in vessels of 6m and under, and so it is even more important that you have reliable communications equipment, that works when wet, when you are in smaller boats.”

Marine weather

The research found 73% of all recreational vessel users said it was very important to check the marine weather forecast before departure while only 64% actually do this every time they go out.


More than three-quarters (76%) of people said they never consumed alcohol while boating. The rate of people who abstain from alcohol was highest for kayakers and canoeists (90%) and lowest for users of powered vessels and sail boats (66% and 62%, respectively).

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