Safer Boating Week: A plea to everyone hitting the water

16 October 2023

Come home safe. Maritime NZ and its Safer Boating Forum partners want every recreational craft user to put steps in place to ensure they return home from their time on the water with good memories, not injuries, or, even worse, fatalities.

MNZ and the Safer Boating Forum, want everyone who heads out to come home safe.

Safer Boating Week is about getting safety to the forefront of the minds of recreational craft users as they start flocking to the water.

Maritime NZ’s 2022 Recreational Fatal Accidents report states that last year 17 people died tragically, or were reported missing and never found.

“This is a sobering statistic, and one the Safer Boating Forum and our members are dedicated to bringing down,” Sharyn Forsyth, Chair of the Safer Boating Forum, says.

“Our Forum members span right across the recreational craft space, from jet boating through to stand up paddle boarding, and each activity has its own risks to manage.

“Through Maritime NZ’s community grant funding, organisations all over the country are running programmes to bring down instances of harm.

“In 2022 we saw fatal incidents occurring on powerboats, dinghies, kayaks and jet skis, and it is important a targeted approach is taken to preventing harm on recreational crafts.”

Almost all of these fatal incidents occurred one nautical mile from shore, or on lakes and rivers.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are close to shore, tragedy can strike anywhere and that is why it is critical to prepare before heading out onto the water,” Maritime NZ Harm Prevention Lead – Recreational Craft Victoria Slade says.

“If you’re planning to head out on the water make sure to check the marine forecast, take two forms of waterproof communication to call for help, and always wear a properly fitting lifejacket.”

Thirteen of the 17 fatalities occurred when people were capsized or thrown overboard, which is why it is very important to wear a properly fitting life jacket.

“New Zealand is an island nation and conditions can quickly change. A day can start calm, causing a false sense of security. This has especially been the case for users of low powered or human powered vessels,” Victoria Slade says.

Canoers and kayakers represented nearly a third of those who died in recreational craft incidents in 2022.

“Just because you are going out in a small vessel near to shore doesn’t mean you are immune to risks. The weather can change quickly so you need to regularly assess the weather conditions and head back to shore if conditions change. Smaller crafts such as kayaks can easily capsize in larger waves and be battered by high winds which can make situations very dangerous,” Victoria Slade says.

“Of the 17 people who died or went missing in recreational accidents in 2022, 16 of those were male. The ‘she’ll be right’ attitude of a lot of NZ males needs to be left at home when heading out onto the water. Remember, your family needs you home safely.”

For more information about how to plan before you head out, ways to be safe on the water, how to maintain your boat, and how to safely use different types of recreational crafts

Come home safe. Kia Mataara.

Key water user and 2022 fatality report statistics:

  • 2022: 17 deaths (spread across 16 incidents)
    • The 17 fatal accidents that occurred in 2022 placed that year approximately at the 10 year average of 18 deaths
  • Of those who died in recreational craft incidents last year:
    • 17 of the 16 people were male
    • The median age was 53 years old
    • 12 were not wearing a lifejacket when they entered the water
    • 12 of 17 people died in spring and summer
    • All fatalities occurred in a vessel that was 6m or less in length
  •  nine deaths of the 17 were due to a capsize, a further four was overboard
  • Basic vessel type:
    • six deaths on a Kayak/Canoe
    • five deaths on a dinghy
    • four deaths on a power boat
  • Only seven percent of those surveyed say they create detailed plans of their trip. 31% don’t do any planning at all.
  • Things considered before and during trips to ensure saftey:
    • 42% have lifejackets
    • 38% know/ check the forecast
    • 11% have a phone

Note to editors:

The Safer Boating Forum (Forum) is a network representing a crosssection of national and regional government agencies, local body groups, organisations and the marine industry, involved in promoting recreational boating safety in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The purpose of the Forum is to work together to develop and implement a recreational strategy for Aotearoa to support agreed safety policy, communications, education, compliance and regulation activities.
Maritime NZ leads the Forum and works with Forum members to coordinate safe boating activities.

Maritime New Zealand
Auckland Transport
Coastguard New Zealand
Drowning Prevention Auckland
Environment Canterbury
Greater Wellington Regional Council
Insurance Council of NZ
Jet Boating New Zealand
Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers
New Zealand Marine Industry Association
New Zealand Police
New Zealand Search and Rescue Council
New Zealand Sport Fishing Council
New Zealand Underwater Association
NZ Stand Up Paddling
Northland Regional Council
Queenstown Lakes District Council
Rowing New Zealand
Surf Lifesaving New Zealand
Swimming New Zealand
Te Manatu Waka
Waikato Regional Council
Waka Ama New Zealand
Water Safety New Zealand
Yachting New Zealand

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