Police (all emergencies) Dial: 111
Other Important Numbers

The Boating Safety Code provides important information to follow when going out on a boat in New Zealand waters:

1Lifejackets

Take them – wear them. Boats, especially ones under 6m in length, can sink very quickly. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time in the water. 

Lifejackets are so important for safety on the water. But did you know there are different lifejackets designed for different conditions? Making sure you have the right lifejacket for the type of activity, location, and condition as well as making sure that children are fitted with the right type and sized lifejacket will make all-the-difference if you find yourself in unexpected trouble.

Two steps to selecting the right lifejacket:

2Communications

Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so we can help you if you get into difficulties.

Being able to communicate with the Coastguard from your vessel is vital, especially if you get into trouble. Because you’re surrounded by water, there is always a risk of your communications devices getting wet, so they need to be waterproof. Always have two different forms of communication – if one doesn’t work, you need a different back-up option.

VHF radio and beacons are the best. Find out more.

3Marine weather

New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the local marine weather forecast before you go and expect both weather and sea state changes.

There is a seperate forecast just for marine weather. The conditions can change quickly on the water and being prepared for these changes is really important. MetService provides the marine forecast, which is typically quite different from the towns and cities forecast, even if the location you intend to boat in, is nearby.

How to check the marine forecast

4Avoid alcohol

Safe boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. You need to stay alert and aware.

Drinking alcohol can make seemingly simple tasks - like being able to remain balanced on a moving boat - much more difficult, because it deteriorates coordination and balance, decision making and the body’s ability to react. This puts you at an increased risk of falling, and if you fall into the water, it puts you at an increased risk of drowning, too.

Alcohol effects everyone differently, but no matter who you are, alcohol is directly absorbed into the blood stream and drinking it faster than your body can process it increases your blood alcohol levels. Even if you think you ‘feel fine’, increased blood alcohol weakens your airway protection reflexes, which means you’re more likely to inhale water quickly if you fall in, too. Alcohol in your bloodstream results in a decreased concentration of blood going to your brain and your muscles, which reduces your ability to hold your breath underwater, affects your muscle coordination and can impact your reaction time in the water, too.

More about boating and alcohol

5Skipper responsibility

The skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience.

The skipper is the “captain” on a boat in the water, and in New Zealand that makes them responsible for the safety of everyone on board.

What a skipper should know before heading out.

More top tips for safer boating:

Know the law:

Always follow the Boating Safety Code when enjoing sailing or power boat recreational activities. 

Don’t go out further than you have prepared for - motorised boats may seem like they can manage a lot, but New Zealand's waters can be impacted by the weather turning quickly and sand bars are often hard to navigate. See the important links (left) for further advice and information.  

Key contacts for power boats and sailing boats:

  • Coastguard New Zealand - provides practical safety assistance on the water, including offering boat (and PWC) towing-services, resources and helpful on-water mobile apps.
  • Coastguard Boating Education - provides in person and online courses and education relating to the safe operation of boating craft in New Zealand's waters.
  • Maritime New Zealand - regulates the rules around commercial and public boating and provides practical resources relating to activities on New Zealand's waters and the law.

As well as following the Boating Safety Code and being prepared in case you fall in the water by following the Water Safety Code, it's important to remember that even non-motorised and small craft must adhere to boating rules and regional by-laws. Small vessels can be particularly badly hit by changes in the marine weather forcast - always check the marine weather before you go, too. Follow the important links to the left to find out more. 

Key contacts for power boats and sailing boats:

  • Coastguard Boating Education - provides in person and online courses and education relating to the safe operation of boating craft in New Zealand's waters.
  • Maritime New Zealand - regulates the rules around commercial and public boating and provides practical resources relating to activities on New Zealand's waters and the law.
  • Coastguard New Zealand - provides practical safety assistance on the water, including offering boat towing-services, resources and helpful on-water mobile apps.
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand - provides a national lifeguard service on selected beaches on behalf of central and regional government.

Jet skis and personalised water crafts (PWCs) are great fun when used safely. Operation of PWCs means sticking to the Boating Safety Code and, as the use of these can often result in falling into the water (whether intended or not), we also recommend following the Water Safety Code. There are a few other things you should remember when operating a PWC - follow the links on the left for more information. 

Did you know? Many regional councils require jet skis to be registered - Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne, Queenstown Lakes and Taupo?

Key contacts for Jet Skis/Personal Water Craft

  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand - provides a national lifeguard service on selected beaches on behalf of central and regional government.
  • Maritime New Zealand - regulates the rules around commercial and public boating including PWCs, and provides practical resources relating to activities on New Zealand's waters and the law.
  • Coastguard New Zealand - provides practical safety assistance on the water, including offering boat and PWC towing-services, resources and helpful on-water mobile apps.
  • Coastguard Boating Education - provides in person and online courses and education relating to the safe operation of boating craft in New Zealand's waters.
  • Watersafety New Zealand - provides resources relating to swimming and other inn-water activities. Manages the popular water safety campaign: the Swim Reaper