Out with the old, in with the new … it might be cliche but it could be the difference between life and death on the water.

Every summer thousands of Kiwis flock to the water for swimming, boating, fishing and a range of other activities.

Last year, there were 68 preventable drownings nationwide, compared with 92 in 2017, according to data published by Water Safety NZ.

In a bid to help reduce this number even further, Coastguard travels throughout New Zealand every year asking for boaties to trade in their old lifejackets.


Coastguard's campaign, Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade, takes in obsolete lifejackets and sells boaties back modern Hutchwilco lifejackets on a discounted price.

The campaign ran over the summer period and almost 500 more lifejackets were traded compared to last year's campaign.

On December 1, the campaign visited Marsden Cove where about 70 lifejackets were upgraded.

Despite the weather not putting on a show, a lot of the boating community from the marina stopped by and traded in their lifejackets, Coastguard said.

The campaign also ran for two further weeks at Boating and Outdoors in Whangārei and Kerikeri.

"We feel people are starting to realise just how important wearing a lifejacket is," Old4New spokesperson Sue Tucker said.

"It greatly increases your chances of survival if you do end up in the water."

The campaign van drove for nine weeks, stopping at 61 different locations throughout the country and 3462 old and damaged lifejackets were replaced.


Coastguard said many of the jackets traded in were unusable and "downright dangerous", even taking in a lifejacket from Greymouth which was thought to be 75 years old.

Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes said the campaign has continued to increase in popularity since starting five years ago.

"The van not only makes it easy for people to upgrade old lifejackets but to find out more about how to stay safe on the water," he said.

"It has been heartening to see the warm welcome the van receives in places and the increasing number of families stopping by to get new lifejackets fitted."

More than 10,000 lifejackets have been traded in since the campaign started and Holmes said it Coastguard is "incredibly proud" of the difference it is making.

However, the Coastguard boss emphasised the need for all boaties to wear lifejackets, not just young children.

"Often you see all the young people on a boat wearing lifejackets but not the parents," Holmes said.

"But everyone on board needs to wear one and kids often pester older family members to put one on. A lifejacket never ruins a day on the water."

Last year the campaign had a strong focus on the Northland region, travelling as far as Houhora, hence the small presence this year.