Each year people drown in New Zealand waters that may have been saved if they had been wearing a lifejacket.

Legal requirement

You must carry a correctly sized life jacket for each person on board the vessel.

All lifejackets must meet NZ Standard 5823:2005 or another standard accepted by Maritime NZ. If not being worn they must be stowed in an easily accessible location. This rule applies to all boats including tenders to larger craft.

It is the skipper’s legal responsibility to ensure that life jackets are worn in situations of heightened risk, such as when crossing a bar, in rough water, in an emergency and by anyone who can’t swim.

Some local councils enforce bylaws that make it a legal requirement to wear lifejackets at all times on small craft.

More information is available on Maritime NZ’s website


Water Safety New Zealand recommends that you wear a life jacket at all times on small vessels (under 6 metres), particularly when they are under way.

It is important to have the right type of life jacket. Consider the type of boating you do, the distance from shore you intend to go and the kind of conditions you are likely to encounter. 

Talk to your supplier or contact Water Safety New Zealand, Maritime NZ or Coastguard Boating Education for some expert advice.