A Coastguard NZ roadshow is visiting boating and outdoor shops all over New Zealand this summer, helping Kiwis to exchange old lifejackets for discounted, brand-new water safety gear.
The official drowning figures over the Christmas-New Year period – which ran from 4pm 22 December to 6am 3 January – currently stands at seven, after a body was found on Ninety Mile Beach.
The 10-year average for the same time period is eight deaths; 2022-23 saw nine fatalities.
Last week, fisherman Will Fransen miraculously survived almost 24 hours adrift after he fell out of his boat.
Amid the high season for water-related accidents, the Coastguard Old4New life jackets scheme will be visiting boating hotspots until Waitangi weekend.
People can take along old life jackets to receive discounts on new, fit-for-purpose Hutchwilco ones at van locations in the North and South Islands.
Coastguard head of operations Rod McCaw told Morning Report’s Charlotte Cook that it was important that everyone, including children, had life jackets that were fit for purpose, fitted well and were safe before every use.
The Old4New campaign had been running for a number of years, he said, but this year they had “doubled down”, on the number of locations for the roadshow since early December.
“We will continue to drive the messaging that wearing a life jacket is a good idea – it’s going to buy you some time, it’s going to help keep you safe, and it’s never ruined a day on the water.”
People might have old lifejackets sitting around home that were no longer fit for purpose or were stopping you from wearing a life jacket when out on the water because they weren’t the right type for that activity.
“Bring it on down to one of the van locations, and get a really good discount on a brand new Hutchwilco life jacket, whether it’s an inflatable one, whether it’s one for the kids, whether it’s a [Stand Up Paddleboard] one, go and see the team and we can sort you out.”
If people were not able to make a roadshow event, they could still go to a Boating and Outdoors shop for discounted jackets – and they didn’t even need to bring in an old jacket.
“We want to make sure you’ve got the right jacket that’s going to do the business for you. It doesn’t matter how old, grotty your life jackets are.”
The team was still seeing natural fibre jackets and “museum pieces” from the 1950s and 1960s – “really quite dangerous stuff, frankly,” he said.
So what were the signs that a life jacket needed to be replaced?
“Like any material, if it’s been exposed to a lot of sun, a lot of UV then you’re going to start to see quite significant fade, and that means it’s more likely to tear and the fabric’s going to degrade.
“Have a look at … where the straps join the jacket, and the buckles… Ultimately if you can put … a fitted, foam jacket on, and you see that there’s no rips, tears, frays, and it’s nice and snug, then you’re good to go.”
For inflatable jackets, Gerrard said it was important to check the tag and see when the CO2 canisters needed to be replaced, which could vary between every 12 and 24 months.