Questions at ramps will discover boat owners' habits and safety practices
A comprehensive survey of boat owners' knowledge and how they think about safety and other issues is under way at the country's boat ramps and launching areas.
The Maritime New Zealand annual Boat Ramp Survey, which is supported by regional councils and run by Coastguard volunteers, is designed to help determine future strategies for keeping New Zealanders safe at sea.
The survey will run until February. According to Coastguard president Colin Small, the results will be critical in measuring the effectiveness of the Boating Safety Strategy developed by the Pleasure Boat Safety Forum, a group formed six years ago to help reduce boating deaths.
"The results of the Boat Ramp Survey will help Coastguard determine the direction we need to take to keep the number of boating incidents down," says Small.
"There has been a vast improvement in safe boating behaviour and the use of safety equipment and communications devices by pleasure boaties. However, there still seems to be a knowledge gap for many heading out on the water."
Small says that, over the last 12 months, Coastguard New Zealand has responded to 3300 calls for assistance, many of which could have been prevented with more preparation and planning by skippers.
"Last year's survey showed a 10 per cent decrease in the number of boaties checking the weather and marine forecasts before heading on to the water," he says. "That should be one of the first things they do before taking the boat out.
"This signals to us the urgent need for a more targeted approach toward preparation and planning."
Small says that once the survey results have been calculated, Coastguard will also review the "polarising topic" of compulsory licensing and registration.
"Though Coastguard regularly reviews its position on this matter and has continued to support 'willing compliance' in an effort to keep boaties safe, the concerning trend in boating fatalities over the last three years shows it is timely for us to review our stance on this."
The survey will be conducted by a number of the Coastguard's 2500 volunteers and is voluntary.
However, Coastguard says the names of those who take part will go in the draw to win a number of prizes as thanks for their time. These will include ICOM VHF Radios, Hutchwilco life jackets and Coastguard education courses.
More information about the survey is available at www.coastguard.co.nz