Lifejacket library scheme popular

18 Apr 2023, 9:33 AM

Organisers estimate about 300 lifejackets have been distributed to communities throughout Northland over the past several years as part of an innovative lifejacket library scheme.

By offering free access to life-saving tools, it’s an inclusive solution that can increase safety on the water for everyone.

The scheme is part of the Northland Regional Council’s ‘Nobody’s stronger than Tangaroa’ initiative which aims to address lack of skipper knowledge and responsibility, failure to wear lifejackets/compliance, speed and wake, and alcohol use on the water.

Council Chair Tui Shortland says in recent years the council has received $70,000 a year from Maritime NZ (MNZ) toward the campaign, with about $10,000 annually used to purchase lifejackets.

This year a portion of the balance is being used to cover the costs of two Safety Ambassadors; Les Bore, who is based at Ahipara and Dane Karapu from Moana Futures in Whangarei.

Chair Shortland says among the ambassadors’ focus has been setting up lifejacket hubs at predominantly remote Northland communities.

“These have been in various locations including marae, schools and waka-ama clubs and at events such as Waitangi Day. It’s a fantastic scheme that opens up opportunities for those who may not have their own lifejacket and ensures our people stay safe.”

Mr Karapu says it’s great to hear stories from communities about who’s using the lifejackets. “They’re well-used, and it’s cool to see kids in particular getting opportunities they might never have had before.”

Chair Shortland says 200 lifejackets have been supplied by NRC from the fund money and it has also been well supported by MNZ with another 100 lifejackets from their supply.

This year about 150 lifejackets have been distributed to Horeke, Bland Bay and many schools in the Far North.

Typically, each area targeted gets about 15-20 lifejackets – worth up to $100 each – which it can then lend out to locals as it sees fit, the rationale being that the recipients know how to maximise the benefits from the scheme, whether that be lending them out for just a few hours or longer-term.

The NRC and the ambassadors are keen to continue the scheme if another funding application is successful to help deliver better safety outcomes for Northland communities.

Man and woman surrounded by lifejackets.

Safety Ambassador Dane Karapu and local kuia Ellen Hardiman of Whangaruru’s Tuparehuia Marae Committee with the lifejackets the marae will hold for use by local and visiting boaties.