The 5 ways to be safe on the water

Making your plan

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice, you need a plan before you answer the call of the water.


Skipper a boat, paddleboard, kayak or waka ama? Make sure your craft and equipment are safe and water-ready before you leave home.


Check your gear to make sure it’s safe and fit for purpose. Make sure you have two waterproof ways to call for help - even if you’re on a SUP or a kayak.


Know your responsibilities as a skipper by staying up-to-date with the marine forecast, local conditions and bylaws.

Boating guide

Nearly half of all Kiwis head out boating each year. Get expert advice on preparing your boat, checking your gear and understanding the rules of the water.

Download Safer boating guide
boating guide
  • Maintain your boat and give it an annual check

    • Ensure the bung is in good condition.
    • Check the hull for damage.
    • Ensure bilges are clean and dry.
    • Test steering for stiffness.
    • Clean the fuel filter and check fuel lines for leaks.
    • Charge your batteries.
    • Test your electrical equipment and lights are working.
    • Check for fuel smells and ventilate your boat before starting your engine.
    • Check the outboard, pull cord, kill switch, throttle and gear shift are all working.
    • Start the engine and ensure cooling water is flowing.
  • Essential safety equipment checklist

    • 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 the boat.
    • 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.
  • Know the rules of the water

    • Skippers are responsible for the safety of their boat and passengers. You can be prosecuted, so learn how to boat safely.
    • Take an online Day Skipper course with Coastguard Boating Education.
    • Drivers must be 15 years and over to operate a power boat.
    • Know the give way rules as they apply to your vessel.
    • Keep a good lookout at all times, especially at speed.
    • Go less than 5 knots 200m within the shore or near a dive boat and within 50m of swimmers and other boats. Observe the 5 knot rule.
    • If towing you need an observer - that’s three people when water skiing or wake boarding.
    • Display the correct lights at night so you can be seen.
    • If you can hear and see a large ship get out of its way fast.
    • Check MarineMate for your local bylaws (search ‘Marine Mate’ in your app store).

Paddle craft guide

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders go paddling along our coasts and on our lakes and rivers every year. Nothing compares to the adrenalin rush of being on the water. But things can go wrong. This Guide provides you with advice and guidance on how to be safe on our waters when paddling.

Download Paddle craft guide
  • Maintain your paddle craft and give it an annual check

    • Check your craft for leaks, damage or dodgy cables/fasteners and anything else that could invite trouble.
    • Tether your paddle so you don’t lose it if you capsize. Know how to get back on and right your paddle craft.
  • Essential safety equipment checklist

    • LIFEJACKETS: Check your lifejacket, especially an inflatable, is undamaged and fits. Know how to adjust the fit.
    • COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT: Take two - a hand held VHF radio, a personal locator beacon (PLB) or a cell phone in a waterproof lanyard bag. Carry them on you or stash them in your lifejacket pocket.
    • WETSUIT: Dress for the water temp, not air temp. Cold water shocks and hypothermia can kill.
    • WATERPROOF TORCH: Show a bright light from (and during) sunset to sunrise. Check your battery.
  • Know the rules of the water

    • LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Talk to locals about the specific tides, currents and hazards. Check MarineMate for your local bylaws (search ‘Marine Mate’ in your app store).
    • PLENTY OF FOOD, DRINK AND SUNSCREEN: Don’t get caught short.

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) guide

Following the SUP Safe Code when you go out for a paddle will greatly reduce risk of becoming a rescue statistic.

Download SUP guide