Coastguard appeals for safety on water this Labour Weekend

Coastguard is asking all boaties to do their bit around boating safety and look after their whānau following a number of tragedies on the Manukau Harbour in recent weeks and Labour Weekend on the doorstep.

On Saturday, three lives were lost on the Manukau Harbour, one of the worst incidents the body of water has seen in recent years. “Coastguard’s heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of those involved,” says Coastguard Head of Operations, Rob McCaw. 

With Labour Weekend fast approaching and the expectation that thousands of boaties will hit the water across the country to enjoy the warm spring weather, Coastguard is concerned that not enough boaties are taking safety seriously enough. In particular taking and wearing lifejackets for everyone onboard the vessel and logging a trip report or bar crossing especially when planning to cross a harbour bar. 

"Coastguard wants all boaties to enjoy a great summer out on the water and get home in one piece. Conditions can rapidly change in the marine environment especially dangerous ones like harbour and river bars. It is vital that boaties take responsibility for the safety of everyone on board and register a Bar Crossing Report with Coastguard so we know where you are and can immediately respond in an emergency,” Mr McCaw said. 

"Over recent weeks we have seen even the most experienced boaties get into trouble - nobody is above the fundamentals of boating safety. This means ensuring everyone on board is wearing a fit-for-purpose lifejacket at all times - they’ve never ruined a day out on the water, having two forms of waterproof communication, keeping an eye on local marine weather before heading out and logging your trip with Coastguard Radio or easily through the Coastguard app." 

Before you head out this long weekend, download the free Coastguard app here. 

Staying safe on the Manukau Harbour 

Boaties can log a Bar Crossing report by calling *500 on your mobile or contacting Coastguard radio from your VHF Radio and providing the following information: 

  • The name and/or VHF Callsign of your boat.
  • Which bar you're crossing (including whether you're heading in or out over the bar).
  • Your current location.
  • Destination, route and estimated time of arrival (ETA).
  • Number of people on board (POB).

The team on the end of Coastguard Radio then put you on a SAR (search and rescue) watch of between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on which bar you're crossing. You then must close your Bar Crossing report when you're safely over, otherwise in the instance that you don’t contact us within the allocated timeframe and we’re not able to raise you a search will be initiated for you.

This is a safety service that we know saves lives. In the last year Coastguard monitored the safe passage of 21,000 boats across New Zealand harbour bars (including 7,000 at the Manukau bar) using its Bar Crossing Service. In addition, each year the organisation runs bar crossing seminars and local familiarisation trips across bars to improve boaties’ skills, confidence and understanding of the hazards associated with bars.

While Auckland has been able to return to nearly unrestricted boating activity, under the new Step 1 rules, Coastguard must still operate within and observe restrictions under Level 3 conditions. This means Coastguard units within the Auckland region are still operating predominantly on a reactive basis although some recent permissions have allowed us to recommence required training activity on the water. 

“Our three units based on the Manukau Harbour have an exceptional record of responding to and saving boaties who get into difficulty. Many lives have been saved by our volunteers on the Manukau, but regrettably it’s simply not feasible for our entirely volunteer crews to be ‘on station’ at all times for such a large body of water and we rely on boaties logging a bar crossing report for us to monitor their safety as they cross.

"Our Coastguard Volunteers routinely train and operate on the Manukau and near the bar so they are able to respond to incidents in all conditions,” says Mr McCaw. 

Safety tips for crossing the Manukau Bar 

  • Always check the swell, tide and wind conditions – every crossing of the Manukau Bar is different because of these factors. 
  • Always try and cross the bar during daylight hours. 
  • Make sure that everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket and is awake. 
  • Crossing at high tide is best (but always take the weather and swell into consideration too). 
  • Ensure that you are carrying two forms of communication that work even when wet.
  • If in doubt, don't go out!

More information on safely crossing a bar is available here on Coastguard’s ‘Boaties Best Mate’ website.

About Coastguard

Coastguard is a charity powered by over 2,000 volunteers in communities around New Zealand.

Coastguard receive 30% of our funding from central government. The other $18 million is raised each year through the support of members, donors, funders and corporate partners. 

Last year our volunteers gave 291,402 hours to keeping New Zealanders safe on the water. 

Our volunteer crew on rescue vessels, in our search aircraft and on the end of the radio have been dedicated to saving lives for over 150 years. 


For more information, contact: 
Ben Parsons 
Coastguard New Zealand Senior Communications Advisor 
[email protected]

Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity