More than 3000 boaties are safer on the water as a result of a Coastguard lifejacket-swapping initiative.

The Old4New campaign encouraged boaties to trade in their old lifejackets for a discount on new, modern versions.

By the end of last month, more than 3000 old, damaged and obsolete lifejackets had been handed in to Coastguard.

'No way out ... so this is how it ends'


The Old4New team positioned themselves at 40 boat ramps over the summer, travelling more than 7000km across New Zealand from the Far North to Canterbury to get their hands on old lifejackets and get boaties into safer gear.

It is the second year the campaign had run but the first time it went nationwide, made possible by $75,000 in funding from Maritime New Zealand.

"After two successful years of outfitting boaties with new lifejackets in the heavily populated boating areas in the north, we knew there was demand from the rest of the country," said Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes.

"The Old4New team were available to provide advice on lifejacket use and care, as well as helping boaties select the best lifejacket for their type of boating.

"The team also shared key safety messages and encouraged safe boating practises, including wearing - not just taking - your lifejacket when aboard your boat, checking marine weather and taking at least two forms of waterproof communications.

"These precautions are invaluable, especially during the hot summer months - months which often see high rates of water fatalities."

Holmes said 108 people drowned across the country last year.

Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes. Herald on Sunday photograph by Michael Craig
Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes. Herald on Sunday photograph by Michael Craig

"In many cases these could have been prevented, with a modern, fit-for-purpose lifejacket - it's a vital part of your boating safety," he said.

"Thanks to the Old4New campaign 3000 people - that's equivalent to the population of a town such as Helensville or Raglan - are now safer on the water across the country."

Many boaties also took the opportunity to trade in their kids' lifejackets for better fitting ones.

"It's vital that a lifejacket fit snugly, and be suitable for the type of boating you're engaged in," Holmes said.

"Some of the lifejackets that were traded in were literally falling apart, and would not have saved a life if needed.

"In addition, some lifejackets were simply obsolete - the oldest lifejacket traded into the Old4New team was more than 40 years old, and was unlikely to provide sufficient buoyancy to keep the wearer afloat."

Holmes said it was important to check lifejackets and make sure they were in good condition before they were used.

He was thrilled that the campaign appeared to motivate Kiwis to think about their safety.

"While it's the skipper's responsibility to ensure everyone on board is safe, when it comes
to the water, your safety starts with you," he said.

"A lifejacket is a simple piece of equipment that would help save your life if you suddenly find yourself in the water.

"Wearing a lifejacket has never ruined a day on the water- it's as simple as that."

The Old4New initiative doesn't stop just because summer is over.

Of the traded-in lifejackets, more than 300 still met or exceeded New Zealand safety standards, and would be distributed to in-need communities in the Pacific Islands.

Holmes said alongside the significant funding from Maritime New Zealand, the Old4New campaign was made possible by New Zealand companies Hutchwilco and the Giltrap Group, as well as retailer Boating & Outdoors who offered the trade-ins at their 23 stores nationwide during specific weeks of the campaign.