Cleaning your boat
Why clean my boat's hull?
A clean hull is important to help keep a vessel in good shape and improve its fuel economy and speed. Having a hull free from hitchhiking pest plants and animals – including some of the world's worst – also helps protect Northland's precious marine environment.
How do I keep my hull clean?
Antifouling paint cover is the easiest way to do this and regular haul outs for cleaning your hull and reapplying antifouling is crucial. However, as the ingredients in antifouling paint – including copper – can harm marine life, they must be applied carefully.
Where can I clean my hull?
Our rules are strict and do allow for very limited beach or in-water hull cleaning, but we discourage this for a variety of reasons. We advocate the use of dedicated boat maintenance facilities for routine maintenance, including hull cleanings between antifouling.
Cleaning a hull on the beach or in water is technically a permitted activity under our rules, but on the condition there is no discharge of contaminants into coastal waters or deposited on the foreshore or seabed. Achieving this is difficult in most cases, which is why we strongly recommend you haul out your vessel at an appropriate boat maintenance facility. If beached for cleaning or any other maintenance, this must not take longer than one tidal cycle and should be done away from popular swimming spots and shellfish beds. For biosecurity reasons, only vessels that have not left Northland since antifoul was last applied can be cleaned in our water or on our beaches.
So what is a contaminant?
Legally, a contaminant is anything that may change the physical, chemical, or biological condition of the receiving environment. In the case of hull cleaning, these contaminants include marine organisms (including pests) and antifouling paint.
What can I clean?
Anything other than the first layer of light slime shouldn't be removed from a vessel hull on the beach or in the water. Larger 'macrofouling', which includes barnacles, mussels, and large algae, can only be removed there if the vessel hasn't left Northland since it was last antifouled, and some form of specialist collection or containment system is used. This is because macrofouling can contain pests that pose serious biosecurity risks; some we still don't have but which are already established in other parts of New Zealand, including Auckland.
There are two main types of antifoul paint; hard antifoul and 'ablative' or eroding antifoul. Both use a biocide (generally copper-based) to deter marine growth, but which can also cause unintended environmental harm. Hard paints slowly 'leach' this biocide, eventually leaving the spent paint. Ablative paints work by slowly eroding away, exposing fresh paint. Only hard antifoul paints are appropriate for beach or 'in water' cleaning.
Before you clean
If – and only if – you meet the strict requirements for beach cleaning or in water cleaning, there are still a number of factors to consider. Remember, beach cleaning should be done away from popular swimming spots and shellfish beds and must not take longer than one tidal cycle. While there are no designated geographical areas where cleaning must take place, Northland's marinas, wharfs, and jetties have their own rules too – check first. Don't work in busy areas like commercial wharfs and main channels. If you have a diver in the water, ensure you fly a dive flag, and have a lookout aboard to warn – and keep an eye out for – approaching vessels. If in doubt – haul out instead.
What are the penalties?
Ignorance of our rules is no defence. People illegally cleaning boat hulls risk fines of at least $500 a day.
Boat maintenance facilities
Note: While use of these facilities is encouraged, you may still be required to comply with land-based rules (such as using dropsheets where no treatment systems are provided) and you're responsible for complying with the facility's rules and consents.