Boaties are being warned to put on lifejackets after a disappointing survey found about 10 per cent of people out on the water were putting their lives at risks by not wearing them.
The Waikato Regional Council - which governs popular boating areas such as the Coromandel and Raglan - surveyed 730 skippers in the sea and on lakes from Boxing Day to January 10 and found a 6 per cent increase in those who weren't wearing lifejackets compared to the same time last summer.
The council then handed out 60 $200 infringement notices to those deemed to be flouting the rules.
Once the breach is noted, it is then passed on to the council's enforcement decision group which then decides whether to issue a $200 infringement notice or warning.
The number of those ignoring the rules was 4 per cent higher than last summer.
The latest Waikato numbers are in line with previous figures released by Maritime New Zealand which found 13 per cent of all occupants were not wearing lifejackets when they should be.
Waikato Regional Council's Regional Harbourmaster Richard Barnett urged people heading out on the water for the next two consecutive long weekends to wear life jackets and warned the water was likely to remain busy.
"Just like a seatbelt, lifejackets save lives. It's the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of survival if something goes wrong."
The council has increased the number of maritime officers patrolling waterways and talking to fellow boaties due to an increase in the number of vessels on the inland coastal waterways over summer as New Zealanders holiday at home.
"Most skippers have been well prepared, carrying the right safety gear and following the local boating rules. But there have still been a number either ignoring the rules or new to boating who don't know what the rules even are. There's simply no excuses for it," Barnett said.
The rules for each district can vary slightly depending on the council, but in the Waikato the right size and regularly serviced life jackets must be worn on moving vessels 6m or under. This also includes people on kayaks, waka ama and paddleboards.
In Auckland the only exception to this rule is they can be removed if the skipper deems it is safe to do so.
As well as a lack of life jackets, 14 per cent were not carrying waterproof communications and 6 per cent hit the water with no communications at all.
Maritime NZ's Manager Sector Engagement and Collaboration Baz Kirk said the change in the Waikato figures could be due to the huge increase in recreational boating, from paddle boards, jet skis to larger powerboats, sailing vessels and new recreational boaties
About 20 recreational boating deaths occur every year and about two-thirds of those could be prevented if people wore lifejackets.
Kirk said lifejacket carriage and wear rates had increased dramatically since four years ago - but there were still some high-risk people who didn't want to wear lifejackets when they should.
Regardless of the council bylaws - Maritime NZ urged boaties to wear lifejackets at all times instead of waiting until it was needed.
"Put it on at the ramp and take it off at the ramp."
Wear a lifejacket, stay safe
• Maritime rules make the skipper responsible for each person on board having a lifejacket of the right size.
• It is also important to have the right type of lifejacket. Consider the type of boating you do, the distance from shore you intend to go, the kind of conditions you are likely to encounter, and the people on board.
• The skipper should give each person a lifejacket and explain how inflatable lifejackets are activated. Show them how to fit, fasten, and adjust their lifejacket, and how to put on and adjust the crotch strap if there is one. If a whistle and light are fitted, show them to passengers and explain how the light is turned on.
• Then, check all lifejackets are being worn correctly and are not damaged.
• After a trip, rinse off salt water to help prevent corrosion. Auto-inflate lifejackets should be wiped with a wet sponge - auto inflation jackets don't activate with water spray, they need to be immersed.
• Store lifejackets clean, dry, well-ventilated, and out of the sunlight. Do not compress or store under heavy objects.
• With all inflatable lifejackets, check that the bladder is not damaged and the gas cylinder has not been discharged.
• The New Zealand Safer Boating forum recommends a crotch strap should be fitted to all lifejackets to stop them riding up over the wearer's head.