Recreational boaties not carrying or wearing life jackets may get on-the-spot $300 fines this summer.

Director of Maritime New Zealand Keith Manch said boaties who broke councils' lifejacket and speed rules would be given infringement notices of up to $300.

The "no excuses" trial would run for about five days by different councils at different times during summer.

The councils included Northland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Canterbury Regional Councils, Tasman and Marlborough District Councils and the Nelson City Council.


After summer, decisions would be made about whether to extend it.

"We are focusing on boaties who do not carry or wear life jackets and also unsafe speed because they are two of the biggest risks of death and injury," Manch said.

Hawke's Bay harbourmaster, Martin Moore, said a rescue this month highlighted the trouble people could carelessly get themselves into.

A power boat had three people on board.

The two passengers were wearing life jackets but the skipper was not. One of the passengers, who could not swim and was afraid of the water, fell off a "biscuit", which was towed by the boat, and panicked.

The skipper jumped in to help but the passenger remaining on board did not know how to drive the boat.

High winds began to blow the boat away from the people in the water and out to sea. The skipper and the passenger who had fallen off the biscuit were struggling in the water.

By good luck, two cray fishermen came to the rescue, and also helped retrieve the boat.


Police and the harbourmaster's office were now involved and further action was possible.

Manch said up to two-thirds of recreational boaties who died in New Zealand might have been saved if they wore lifejackets.

"Wearing your lifejacket is the single most important thing you can do to avoid drowning if you end up unexpectedly in the water," he said.

"Boaties speeding in congested areas is dangerous and can cause injuries to children, swimmers, divers and people in small craft. There is a five knot speed limit when you are near the shore, swimmers, divers and other boats.

"Each regional council will be letting boaties know in their communities that enforcement will happen sometime during summer.

The specific days would not be publicised. Their expectation was that safe boaties follow the requirements each and every time they go on the water.

"For Maritime New Zealand, it is an important addition to the mix of education and promotional activities that we traditionally use to encourage safer boating.

"The intention is to deter those boaties who do not prioritise safety and choose to break the rules. Our aim is to reduce boating fatalities and injuries."