No recreational boating fatalities in Northland for almost a year and more people carrying lifejackets onboard have delighted campaigners who believe water safety messages are getting through.
According to Maritime NZ's annual survey of recreational boaties conducted by research firm Ipsos, 89 per cent of participants who lived in Northland primarily went boating in their home region - the highest in the country - with Northland having around 2700km of coastline.
An estimated 1.67 million or 45 per cent of Kiwis participated in recreational boating last year of which 36 per cent were in Auckland, 19 per cent in Waikato/Taupō, 18 per cent in Bay of Plenty, and 16 per cent in Northland.
Northland recorded seven recreational boating fatalities in 2019 but none last year and Northland Regional Council harbourmaster Jim Lyle said it was always good to have no deaths.
It was difficult to say whether safety campaigns NRC conducted with other stakeholders helped to reduce fatalities but Lyle said it appeared that boaties were taking key messages on board.
"It's a progressive thing, like road crashes where you have peaks and troughs, and overall we run different campaigns and we are seeing an improvement around safety in that more people are wearing lifejackets and the general behaviour is improving," he said.
An area of concern to Maritime NZ from the survey was the 20 per cent that either never wear a lifejacket, not very often, or only some of the time.
Lyle admitted wearing of lifejacket wasn't great in Northland, although their carriage in boats has improved.
He said new generations of boaties came along all the time, hence the need to continue to impart safety messages.
NRC has started an education programme in schools, he said, to capture the next generation of boaties.
Maritime NZ acting northern compliance manager Michael-Paul Abbott said while it was difficult to pinpoint any single cause behind the decrease, any reduction in fatalities was a great outcome for the local community.
He said Maritime NZ worked collaboratively with councils across the country, including the Northland Regional Council, to help support local water safety campaigns and on-water compliance programmes.
"In general, we are finding that most people want to do the right thing. And we are seeing better adherence to the rules, especially when it comes to lifejackets.
"The message is slowly getting through – but we can't afford to be complacent - that's why we urge everyone to always follow the Boating Safety Code and to make sure to prep your craft, check your gear and know your responsibilities. We want everyone to get home safe to their whānau after a great day out."
During the survey, 93 per cent of boaties in Northland carried enough lifejackets, 84 per cent wore them the entire time, 86 per cent avoided alcohol before and during outing, 79 per cent checked the marine forecast, and 55 per cent ensured there were at least two ways to call for help.
Paddling now has the highest level of participation on New Zealand waters. Power boating is the second most popular activity and safety continues to be a concern with those in boats under 6m.
Maritime NZ's manager sector engagement and collaboration Baz Kirk said about two thirds of recreational boating deaths could be prevented if people wore lifejackets.
"We urge all boaties to wear one. Most accidents occur suddenly with no warning. When that happens it's too late to try to find and put on a lifejacket," Kirk said.
"There are now 1.7 million Kiwi adults out on the water taking part in a huge breadth of on-water activities such as kayaking, jetskiing and foil boarding.
"No matter what type of craft you're using, you should always follow the Boating Safety Code: wear a life jacket, carry at least two waterproof ways of calling for help, check the marine weather conditions, avoid alcohol, and be a responsible skipper by knowing the basic boating rules," Kirk said.
ESSENTIAL SAFETY GEAR:
Lifejackets: One suitable fitted lifejacket for everyone on board.
Communication equipment: Two ways to call for help – VHF radio, distress beacons
(EPIRB or PLB), cell phone in a waterproof bag and flares.
Navigation: Charts, plotter, GPS, depth sounder and navigation lights.
Alternative power: A spare outboard motor or oars.
Bailing system: A bucket, bailer or bilge pump.
Anchor: Suitable anchor with 3-6m chain. Attach to a non-floating rope and secure to
Fire extinguishers: Store within reach of the deck or cockpit.
First aid kit: Basic kit for minor accidents or injuries.
Torch: Spare bulb and batteries.
Throwline: For person overboard.
Fuel: Take 1/3 to get there, 1/3 to return, 1/3 in reserve.
Go to http://www.saferboating.org.nz/ for more information and resources.