More kiwis taking to recreational boating

19 October 2020

New research released today highlights the changing face of recreational boating in New Zealand, with 1.7 million kiwi adults now out on the water and using an increasingly diverse array of water craft.

That's around one in every two kiwis (45% of all adult New Zealanders) - the first increase in four years.

“While for many it's the image of a middle-aged bloke out for a spot of weekend fishing on the power boat that springs to mind, these days you're just as likely to find younger men and women flocking to the water in other types of craft, with kayaks being the largest single type of recreational vessel now in use,” says Sharyn Forsyth, Chair of the Safer Boating Forum and Maritime NZ Deputy Director.

It's that changing demographic – and a continuing number of people dying on the water - that has seen boating safety agencies launch a new multi-media campaign today at the start of Safer Boating Week to target water craft users of all kinds to be better prepared.

“And with these increasing numbers of new recreational boaties and the breadth of on-water activity now taking place, including new types of activity such as foil boarding, it’s more important than ever that we reach everyone with our boating safety code messages,” says Ms Forsyth.

“And, with around 20 recreational boating fatalities occurring on average every year, and tragically 10 already this year with summer still to come, it's more important than ever that people are well prepared before going out on the water.

“This means that no matter what type of craft you're on, you should always wear a life jacket, carry at least two waterproof ways of calling for help, check the marine weather conditions, avoid alcohol, and be a responsible skipper by knowing the basic boating rules,” she says.

Ms Forsyth says that during Safer Boating Week, the Safer Boating Forum's ‘What's Your Plan’ campaign focused on supporting boaties to take time to ensure they have covered the three elements of a good plan – these include preparing your boat or kayak and equipment, checking your gear to make sure it’s in good working order, and knowing the marine forecast and rules of where you're going before you head out on the water.

“If you're heading out on the water this summer you need a plan of action—no matter how experienced you are. Knowing your local conditions and situation before you head out keeps yourself and others safe while free to enjoy your experience.”

Maritime NZ's annual survey of recreational boaties, conducted by research firm Ipsos, shows that while most boaties (84%) rate safety as important there is still work to be done to ensure all boaties keeps themselves safe. Around 20% still report that they wear a lifejacket either never, not very often or only some of the time, and one in four report that they never, not very often or only some of the time check the marine or mountain forecast before going out on the water.

“The biggest concern that the friends and family of people who go boating told us is whether they always wear lifejackets. It's such a simple thing that you can do to wear a lifejacket to reassure your loved ones and also to help keep yourself safe, no matter how experienced you might be.” said Ms Forsyth.

Key findings from the research include.-

  • 77% of boaties wear a life jacket all of the time or most of the time they are on the water (77% in 2019; 75% in 2018)
  • 87% reported having enough lifejackets on board for all passengers every time, or most of the time (79% in 2019; 82% in 2018
  • 57% reported having at least two ways of calling or signalling for help every time or most of the time, they go on the water (56% in 2019; 58% in 2018)
  • 76% reported checking the weather every time or most of the time before going out (75% in 2019; 77% in 2018)
  • 80% avoid alcohol all of the time or most of the time (78% in 2019; 83% in 2018)
  • 53% of boaties are men, 47% are women
  • Kayaks are the most commonly used recreational vessels (32%); followed by powerboats less than 6 metres long (19%); jetskis and powerboats more than 6m long (9%); and dinghies with engines and stand-up paddleboards (7%).

Link to the full report and interactive infographic –

“While all recreational water-based activity this season will need to be undertaken in line with the prevailing COVID-19 Alert Level, I encourage everyone to enjoy their time on the water while acting responsibly and safely at all times.” Ms Forsyth adds.

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