Coastguard and Maritime NZ bracing for hectic summer, launch life jacket campaign

The Coastguard and Maritime New Zealand are bracing themselves for a hectic summer with border closures expected to lead to a surge in Kiwis hitting the water.

Saturday is the first day of the annual life jacket campaign - a reminder to the public to wear their life jackets.

This year to date there's been 83 drownings in New Zealand and 64 of them have been preventable, meaning they happen while boating, diving or swimming. And while the total number does fluctuate year to year, there's still a high number of Kiwis losing their lives in the water every year.

"[There are] 20 deaths a year in the recreational boating space, two-thirds of those fatalities are people not wearing a lifejacket," Coastguard CEO Callum Gillespie says. "We know it makes a real difference."

And this year is forecast to be busier than ever.

Keith Manch, CEO and director of Maritime NZ, says boat sales are picking up fast.

"What we're seeing is information from manufacturers and retailers about their sales going through the roof in terms of watercraft... and with people not being able to leave the country we think a lot of them are going to be on the water."

In fact, there are now 1.7 million recreational boaties in New Zealand, and in an effort to try and keep them safe the Coastguard's 'Old4New' life jacket campaign is touring the country.

"We've got more life jackets, we've got two vans this year, we've got improved funding from the government and Maritime NZ," says Gillespie.

"That means we can get to 63 locations around New Zealand, it's the best we've ever done."

Transport Minister Micheal Wood is also zipping up to spread the word.

"It's often blokes a little bit like me, who perhaps get a little cocky and think they don't need the safety measures," Wood says.

"Well you can't beat nature I'm afraid to say, and too many people lose their lives."