Calling Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland home means living in a city surrounded by many beautiful water environments. Recreational activities on or near the water are common, everywhere from our lakes and rivers, to our harbours and rugged west coast beaches.

Along with the health and wellbeing benefits these water-based activities bring, also comes the risk of drowning. A tragic and preventable event that can affect anyone.

The Maritime NZ Boating Fatality Report notes 98 recreational boating fatalities in the six years 2015-2019. Over half (58%) were not wearing a lifejacket, and in a further 9% the lifejackets were not worn or secured correctly. The report states that most fatalities occurred when the person ended up in the water after falling overboard, or the vessel capsizing or being swamped. The incidents occurred suddenly and the victims did not have time to fit lifejackets if they were not already being worn.

Whether you are boating, fishing, paddling, or gathering seafood, it is important that you know when and how to wear a lifejacket (sometimes referred to as a PFD – Personal Flotation Devices).

When do you need to wear a lifejacket?

Bylaws on the wearing of lifejackets vary. Click the button to check the rules about when you need to wear a lifejacket (Ture ā-Rohe Mahi Urungi Āhuru 2021 Navigation Bylaw 2021)

How to fit a lifejacket

It is absolutely essential that your lifejacket is correctly fitted. It should fit snugly and shouldn’t ride up when the person enters the water.
Out of the water
  • Read the label on the lifejacket to find the right fit. Select the correct lifejacket by size and weight indicators.
  • Check belt straps are not twisted.
  • Put it on and do up the zip, if applicable, and each buckle so that it is a snug fit.
  • Self check the belt by inserting two fingers between the belt and the lifejacket.
  • Buddy check by lifting at the shoulders to ensure the lifejacket doesn’t ride up past earlobes.
In the water
You may need to do this in emergency situations such as accidental falls from a boat not wearing a lifejacket or if thrown a lifejacket as a rescue aid.

  • Open lifejacket and lie it face up in the water.
  • Lie on top of the lifejacket, without putting arms through the armholes.
  • Put one arm through the opposite armholes.
  • Rotate body and put other arm through other armhole.

Maintaining lifejackets

Not only should you have a correctly fitted lifejacket for every person taking part in the water-based activity, these lifejackets should be in good condition.

Most manufacturers state that lifejackets should last ten years, but this can be less depending on wear, care, and storage.

Wash in fresh water, and dry completely before storing. Check for damage before you put your lifejackets away.

Check if your lifejacket will work:

  • Pull the straps, hard.
  • Look for tears or cuts in the straps.
  • Check for tears, cuts, or punctures in the lifejacket.
  • Check if it floats – Check with the manufacturer or lifejacket service centre.

For more information on checking lifejackets visit the Check your lifejackets page of the Maritime NZ website.

If you have an inflatable lifejacket we advise you to perform this check annually to ensure your lifejacket is operational.

Don’t have a lifejacket? Borrow one from us!

If you need a lifejacket for an upcoming activity and don’t have one, then you can borrow one from one of our Lifejacket Hubs around Tāmaki Makaurau. Click the button for locations and to find out more.

School group lifejacket loan scheme

We have a supply of lifejackets available, free of charge, for aquatic education programmes. Click the button for more information.

Free e-learning platform

Our free e-learning platform has several topics relating to the usage of lifejackets for various ages and activities.