NEWS — NSW lifejacket reforms, have your say


NSW Ports and Waterways Minister, Paul McLeay, is urging the boating community to have their say on proposed changes to lifejacket rules with the deadline for submissions due to close this Friday, January 8. 

“The proposed changes represent the most sweeping reforms in more than 30 years and are aimed at ensuring recreational boaters wear lifejackets at times of heightened risk, particularly children and boaters in small tinnies,” McLeay said.

“It is sad this discussion is coming during one of the State’s worst ever years for boating fatalities.

“In the last six months, 13 people have died in recreational boating accidents and many of these could have been saved had they been wearing a lifejacket.

“Clearly we need to rethink our approach to regulations in conjunction with an ongoing education campaign,” he said.

McLeay said in the past 10 years 174 people have died in boating incidents with just over half resulting from a person falling overboard or a vessel capsizing.

Drowning has been the primary cause of death and only seven per cent of victims were known to have been wearing a lifejacket.

“The proposed reforms are not intended to take the fun out of boating but these statistics are real and we know simply wearing a modern, comfortable, inexpensive lifejacket can dramatically increase chances of survival after a boating accident,” said McLeay, who urged boaters to have their say on reforms before the deadline of midnight Friday.

“Despite extensive education campaigns the message of the importance of lifejackets is still not getting through and we’re losing too many people to unnecessary drownings.

“In NSW, regulations already require that every boat carries a lifejacket for everyone on board, and that lifejackets be worn when crossing bars, offshore in kayaks and on jetskis.

“In the six years since the coastal bar requirement was introduced there have been just two fatalities or one every three years resulting from crossing accidents.

“Before that is was almost one fatality a year so there has been a two-thirds reduction,” McLeay said.

It is proposed the minimum requirement would be for a lifejacket to be worn:
* By children less than 10 years-old in a vessel less than 4.8m in length;
* By children less than 10 years-old when underway in the open area of a boat less than 8m;
* When waterskiing or wakeboarding;
* When in a vessel less than 4.8m in heightened risk situations such as at night, when alone, and on ocean waters;
* When operating an off-the-beach sail craft in ocean waters;
* On small recreational craft such as kayaks and sailboards, at all times in ocean waters and when more than 100m from shore in sheltered waters;
* When in a vessel less than 4.8m on alpine lakes; and,
* At times of ‘Skipper Judgement and Direction’ ? this approach would give a skipper the right to require passengers to wear a lifejacket if, for example, a change in the weather heightened the risk of a routine boating trip.

The Discussion Paper and online feedback form can be found at or by enquiring at NSW Maritime offices.