Boat safety

Tips for keeping safe on the water

  • Check the boat, engine and equipment before leaving.
  • Before leaving check the weather forecast and tides and general conditions for the whole day.
  • Make sure you get local knowledge about the hazards in the area.
  • Tell someone where you're going and when you'll return.
  • Avoid alcohol when boating.
  • Never overload the boat, secure any heavy objects low and along the centreline.
  • Take a proper lifejacket for each person on board and wear them.
  • Have on board: anchor, bailer, spare fuel, torch, warm clothing or blankets.
  • Take two means of communication that work even when wet, such as VHF radio, flares, 406 MHz EPIRB, cellphone in a plastic bag.
  • Guard against fire.
  • Know the collision prevention rules and local bylaws.

For more advice visit the website of Maritime New Zealand


Common distress signalling methods

Five common distress signals.

The five common distress signals are:

  • Red parachute flare
  • Hand held red flare
  • Buoyant orange smoke
  • Raising and lowering of arms outstretched to each side
  • Mayday or distress message over VHF channel 16
  • Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) activation


Search and rescue

New Zealand Police coordinate Category One searches (on land, inland waterways, subterranean and close-to-shore marine).

The Rescue Coordination Centre coordinates Category Two searches (aircraft, off-shore and emergency locator beacons).

Police manage nearly 2,000 land and marine search and rescue incidents each year.

Officers in each police district are trained as search and rescue marine (SAR) coordinators. They work with volunteer groups such as:

  • Coastguard New Zealand
  • New Zealand Defence Force
  • Local rescue helicopters
  • Amateur Radio Emergency Corps
  • New Zealand Land Search and Rescue


Category Two searches

Category Two searches are coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, they are part of Maritime NZ. They usually require the use of national or international resources and may involve coordination with other countries. These searches include:

  • Searches for missing aircraft or aircraft in distress
  • Off-shore marine searches within New Zealand's search and rescue region
  • Searches for emergency locator beacons that have been activated.

The 24 hour emergency telephone number for RCCNZ is 0508 472 269.