Safety information

Use of dive flags


Protect our divers info graphic.

If operating from a boat, divers, snorklers, free divers and people that are spear fishing MUST display the correct dive flag from their vessel.

Even if you're not diving, snorkling, free diving or spear fishing from a vessel and there is likely to be boat traffic around, you must still tow a float with a dive flag clearly visible on it.

Remember - fly your flag high so it can be seen.

Speed limits

The speed of all boats must be no more than five knots (8km/h or jogging pace) when the boat is:

  • Within 200 metres of shore or a structure;
  • Within 50 metres of another vessel or person in the water;
  • Within 200 metres of a boat flying a dive flag; or
  • When the boat has anyone at or on the bow with part of the body (such as legs) over the side. This is dangerous and should be discouraged.

5 knot buoy.

Minimum age

No person under 15 years shall drive a motor boat or jet ski that is capable of exceeding 10 knots.

Water skiing

Water skiers must observe the Navigation Safety Bylaw provisions. Ski access lanes and water skiing areas ("speed uplifting areas") are provided in several Northland harbours. Vessels may exceed the 5 knots speed limit within these lanes and areas. Skippers should consider the safety of everyone in the boat and nearby, before proceeding at speed within these lanes and areas. (Refer to the maps section for locations of access lanes and ski areas.)

REMEMBER - it takes three to ski...

  • The driver.
  • The skier.
  • An observer.

Open a larger version of this power-driven vessel light rules info graphic in PDF format (135KB). (Opens in a new window).


Open a larger version of this sailing vessel light rules info graphic in PDF format (140KB). (Opens in a new window).

Golden rules for safe boating

  • The skipper is legally responsible for everyone on board – be clear who's in charge.
  • Check the marine weather forecast. If in doubt, don't go out.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel, and some in reserve.
  • Keep your motor well maintained.
  • Don't overload your boat.
  • Life jackets of the right size must be carried for every person on board.
  • Lifejackets must be worn on vessels under 6 metres when underway and when there is heightened risk.
  • Show passengers where the safety gear is and how it works.
  • Keep a good lookout at all times.
  • Know the "Rules of the road at sea".
  • Know the area you are boating in – and refer to a navigational chart.
  • Don't drink and go boating.
  • Anchor carefully so your boat doesn't drag or swing around and damage other craft.

* Refer to the Navigation Safety Bylaws 2017 for full lifejacket rules at

Boat Safety Check List

Before you go, check:

  • Weather forecast.
  • Lifejackets fit for purpose for all on board.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Spare fuel, oars and a bailer.
  • Anchor with chain and rope.
  • Distress signals (flares).
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Charts of the area.
  • Communications – VHF and a cellphone.
  • Emergency Position Indicator Beacon (EPIRB), especially outside harbour limits.
  • Your boat maintenance is up to date.
  • Trip report is logged with Coastguard.

Lifejackets save lives

Most boating accidents occur suddenly with no warning – there may be no time to grab a lifejacket, and it's extremely difficult to put on a lifejacket once you're in the water.

You're required to use lifejackets when you're on the water in Northland. Below is an overview of the rules – for more detail, check out the Navigation Safety Bylaw 2017 at:


Wear your lifejacket mate.


It is a requirement to carry correct fitting lifejackets for each person on board

You must wear a lifejacket if:

  • You are on a vessel 6 metres or less when it's underway*
  • There is a heightened risk such as crossing a bar or adverse weather
  • You are being towed i.e. ski biscuit, wakeboarding or water skiing

*Underway means not aground, anchored or fixed to the shore