New Maritime NZ research highlights the changing face of recreational boating in New Zealand, with 1.7 million adults now out on the water and using an increasingly diverse array of watercraft. That’s around 45% of all adults – and the first increase in four years.

While for many it’s the image of a middle-aged bloke out for a spot of weekend fishing on a power boat that springs to mind,” says Sharyn Forsyth, Chair of the Safer Boating Forum and Maritime NZ Deputy Director, “these days you’re just as likely to find younger men and women flocking to the water in other types of craft, with kayaks being the largest single type of recreational vessel now in use.”
It’s that changing demographic – and a continuing number of people dying on the water – that saw boating safety agencies launch a new multi-media campaign in October (the start of Safer Boating Week) targeting watercraft users of all kinds to be better prepared.
“With increasing numbers of new recreational boaties and the breadth of on-water activity now taking place, including new types of activity such as foil boarding, it’s more important than ever that we reach everyone with our boating safety code messages,” says Forsyth.

“On average around 20 recreational boating fatalities occur every year, so it’s more important than ever that people are well-prepared before going out on the water. This means you should always 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.”
Forsyth says the Safer Boating Forum’s ‘What’s Your Plan’ campaign focuses on supporting boaties to take time to ensure they have covered the three elements of a good plan – preparing your boat or kayak and equipment, checking your gear to make sure it’s in good working order, and knowing the marine forecast and rules of where you’re going before heading out on the water.
Maritime NZ’s annual recreational boatie survey (conducted by research firm Ipsos) shows that while most boaties (84%) rate safety as important, there is still work to be done to ensure all boaties keeps themselves safe. Around 20% still report that they never wear a lifejacket (or not very often or only some of the time), while one in four report that they never, not very often or only some of the time check the marine or mountain forecast before going out on the water.

New research findings include:

• 77% of boaties wear a life jacket all of the time or most of the time they are on the water (77% in 2019; 75% in 2018)
• 87% reported having enough lifejackets on board for all passengers every time, or most of the time (79% in 2019; 82% in 2018)
• 57% reported having at least two ways of calling or signalling for help every time or most of the time, they go on the water (56% in 2019; 58% in 2018)
• 76% reported checking the weather every time or most of the time before going out (75% in 2019; 77% in 2018)
• 80% avoid alcohol all of the time or most of the time (78% in 2019; 83% in 2018)
• 53% of boaties are men, 47% are women
• Kayaks are the most commonly used recreational vessels (32%); followed by powerboats less than 6m long (19%); jetskis and powerboats more than 6m long (9%); and dinghies with engines and stand-up paddleboards (7%).