Maritime authorities are drawing up rules that would make it compulsory for boaties to carry marine communications equipment when they go to sea.
"Pending approval by the Ministry of Transport, it is hoped that this recommendation will be put before the minister for consideration before next summer," a spokesman for Maritime New Zealand said yesterday.
At present there was no regulation in New Zealand to compel a recreational boatie to have either a very high frequency (VHF) radio or 406MHz emergency position indicating radio beacon (epirb) - unlike Australia where it was compulsory for skippers who go more than two nautical miles offshore.
A VHF water-protected radio would cost about $250, and an epirb would cost about $600.
The draft policy followed a recommendation by the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum that carrying marine communications equipment be made mandatory for all recreational craft.
Marine VHF radio networks provide boaties with about 98 per cent coverage within about 30 nautical miles of the NZ coast.
From Sunday, existing analogue 121.5MHz and 243MHz epirbs and emergency location transmitters (ELTs) would no longer be monitored by satellite. Pleasure boats going overseas, and some yachts in coastal races, would have to carry one of the new digital 406MHz beacons.
Some commercial vessels have had to carry the new devices since July last year.
All New Zealand-registered aircraft must be equipped with 406MHz ELT, except for single-seat aircraft, gliders and microlights, where the pilot can carry a personal location beacon.
From Sunday, the only way that rescue services will be aware if a 121.5MHz beacon is set is if an aircraft flying overhead picks up the signal - but aircraft generally do not monitor that frequency.
If any alerts from old distress beacons were picked up and passed on, the Rescue Coordination Centre would respond.