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No Lifejacket? No Problem - Borrow One!

Boaties on one of New Zealand’s most dangerous stretches of water - Manukau Harbour - can now borrow a lifejacket from Manukau Cruising Club for just a gold coin donation. This is the first of a series of lifejacket lending hubs being established in the Auckland region.

Maritime NZ is funding Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA) to establish lifejacket loan hubs at popular places around the Auckland coastline. It’s the first time Maritime NZ has funded this type of initiative and it acknowledges that for many people access to a lifejacket can be an issue.

Minister of Transport, Hon. Phil Twyford, said this was a valuable and innovative way of improving accessibility to lifejackets. “I think this is a tremendous way of removing barriers for people to get a lifejacket when they need it,” he said.

Wearing a lifejacket is the number one way of keeping safe on the water – up to two-thirds of boaties who drown might have been saved if they were wearing lifejackets.

Auckland region by-laws require people to wear a lifejacket at all times, unless the skipper indicates they can take them off. Even then, there must be enough appropriately sized life-jackets on board for everyone on the boat.

Commodore of the Manukau Cruising Club, Marie Vaughan, said the club was excited to be able to offer the new service to the local community. Boaties and fishers had long used the harbour, she said, but numbers were growing.

“So many want to go out now, especially paddle boarders, kayakers and jet skiers and a lot of them don’t wear lifejackets,” she said. “We often see people out there and they just don’t realise the risk they’re taking – things can change so quickly.”

There was also a small hard core of boaties who had been using the Manukau for many years and didn’t think they needed to wear lifejackets, as well as newer boaties and people fishing who weren’t used to conditions in this harbour.

“We have to get lifejacket use up,” she said, and not just among boaties – rock fishers and stand-up paddlers, kayakers and jet skiers need to wear them as well.

“The water is changing all the time, especially in the Manukau, and where there is water, there’s danger, whether you’re in it, on it or around it.”

She said the club would take the opportunity to educate people about the risks and the things they can do to keep themselves safe, and would be running water safety seminars as well as reaching out to other boating clubs to make the lifejackets available when they’re needed.

DPA is establishing five life jacket hubs in the Auckland region. By Christmas people will be able to borrow lifejackets from Manukau Cruising Club, Fulton Swim School Patumahoe, DPA offices in Westhaven and Stanmore Bay Pool & Leisure Centre.

DPA Chief Executive, Nicola Keen-Biggelaar, said that for people who used the water only occasionally, were new to water activities or who were line fishing or netting for food rather than for sport, the cost of a lifejacket could be a barrier.

“Also, when school or club groups go out on the water, lifejackets are not always readily available,” she said. “We want everyone who needs a lifejacket to be able to access one because it is so important for people to be safe around the water.”

Maritime NZ’s Deputy Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, Sharyn Forsyth, said Maritime NZ was excited to fund the initiative as part of an expanded community boating grant programme this year. “We’re very keen to test how effective this initiative is, because increasing lifejacket use is the number one priority for improving recreational boating safety and reducing boating fatalities,” she said.

* To pick up a lifejacket from Manukau Cruising Club people can contact the club on Ph: 09 6367177 or email info@manukaucruisingclub.co.nz or call in during opening hours with ID.

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