Life jacket exchanges brings 'cheap as chips' safety

Life jackets of all sizes will be able to be swapped (File)
Life jackets of all sizes will be able to be swapped (File)

A new initiative swapping old life jackets for new ones is hoping to save lives on New Zealand water this summer.

The idea is simple, bring your old, damaged life jacket to one of several locations over the summer and receive a discount on modern and fit-for-purpose life jackets.

Maritime New Zealand has given Coastguard $75,000 to pass on savings of around one-third to users.

Director of Maritime New Zealand Keith Manch says in the scheme of things, a life jacket is "cheap as chips".

"Overall the cost of a lifejacket is isn't that high compared to the boat, the gas and certainly not compared to the tragedy of drowning if you are not wearing one," he says.

"With this old for new upgrade program that Coastguard is dealing with, the retail price of one sort of lifejacket is $129 [while] the trade-in price would be $89, so you are making about a third saving."

He says the tragedy on the Kaipara bar last week, which killed seven people and left one missing, presumed dead, is a timely reminder.

"It's timely because of the season and anytime a tragedy occurs it just should remind us all, so I certainly hope people take advantage of this offer."

The original concept of the Old4New Lifejacket campaign came from Transport New South Wales.

It was launched for the first time in New Zealand in 2014 and has seen more than 4000 lifejackets traded since then.

The campaign is part of a wider awareness program to get people wearing life jackets on the water.

Only 70 percent of boaties say they wear a lifejacket at all times on the water.

The rate is highest for kayakers and canoeists at 83 percent, but it falls to just over 60 percent for people in power boats and 55 percent for people in sail boats.

The program kicks off on Saturday with upgrades available at Half Moon Bay boat ramp in Auckland from 8am.

Upgrades will be available around the country until February 2017 - click here to find your local area.

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