Water safety Water safety

Aucklanders love getting out on the water, make sure you know the rules designed to keep people safe throughout Auckland’s coastal and inland waters.

Auckland’s waters are used for a wide variety of recreational activities. Whether you're on a paddleboard, kite surfer, powerboat or anything in between you must know the rules and have the right gear to stay safe. Whatever your level of experience, before heading out on the water make sure you’ve prepped your vessel, checked your gear, and know the rules. Have a plan of action before you head out to make sure you get home safe.

Always follow the five key messages from the Boating Safety Code:

  • Wear your life jacket
  • Take two waterproof ways to call for help
  • Check the marine weather forecast
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Be a responsible skipper

For full details on how to be safe on Auckland’s waterways, please consult the Navigation Bylaw 2021.

Bar Crossing

The Manukau and Kaipara Bars can be dangerous to cross.  Inexperienced mariners should not contemplate leaving the Kaipara or Manukau Harbours. It is recommended that those intending to cross a bar participate in a Coastguard approved Bar Crossing course. 

Bar Crossing Reports must be made to Coastguard Radio before and after crossing either bar. Further information on bar crossings is available on the Maritime New Zealand website.  

"No Excuses" campaign

The Auckland Harbourmaster's office will be part of the nationwide "No Excuses" summer boating campaign in association with Maritime NZ and Safer Boating.

Harbourmaster staff and Maritime NZ officers will be working together on the water enforcing action against boaties not carrying a lifejacket and those who speed on the water, which includes infringement notices of up to $300.

Orange banner with the words "No Excuses" in capital letters. Includes logos Maritime NZ and Safer Boating



  • You must carry a suitable lifejacket for every person onboard your vessel.
  • If your boat is 6m or smaller, everyone on board must wear their lifejacket unless the skipper says it is safe to remove it.
  • Lifejackets must be worn on all vessels in times of increased risk.

Be a responsible skipper

  • Every boat must have a skipper over the age of 15 if the vessel is capable of speeds in excess of 10 knots.
  • The skipper is in charge of the safety of everyone on board and should know the boats limits, ensuring not overloading vessel with equipment or people.
  • Check the tides and weather forecast first – if in doubt, don’t go out. Listen to regular updates while on the water.
  • Ensure you have all the necessary equipment on board and stowed correctly for the intended voyage including safety gear, clothing, food and water.
  • Make a trip report with a shore-based contact advising intended passage and time of return.
  • Make sure everyone on board knows what and where safety equipment is stowed and how it works, including 2 forms of communication.
  • Know the rules of the road at sea and the local bylaws.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol intake onboard your vessel.
  • Always keep a good lookout.
  • Report any oil or fuel spills.
  • All maritime incidents or accidents must be reported to Harbourmaster and Maritime New Zealand.


The person in charge of a vessel must:

  • ensure appropriate equipment is on board to communicate using two independent forms of communication at any time with a land-based person from any area where the vessel is intended to be operated.
  • Be capable of communicating using a VHF radio within the vicinity of a harbour entrance bar (for example west of South Headlight on both the Kaipara and Manukau Harbours).
  • Communication equipment is an essential part of safe boating - if you can’t contact someone onshore to say you’re in trouble, nobody can rescue you. Some examples include:
    • A kayaker paddling near the shore may use their voice and a mobile phone in a floating dry case.
    • Two people on a dinghy may each use a cell phone, so long as there is good mobile coverage and are in the waterproof case.
    • A powerboat fishing near the entrance of the Manukau Harbour must have a VHF radio and may use a mobile phone.

Large Vessel

Be aware a ship’s blind spot can extend for hundreds of metres. Never anchor in a channel.

A moving prohibited zone is an area of navigable water around a large vessel that extends 100 metres to each side or the width of the marked channel, whichever is the lessor distance and continues at the width in to 100 metres astern and 500 metres ahead of the vessel or follows the line of the buoyed channel when changing course.

If the pilot vessel or patrol boat asks you to move from the shipping channels, you must move promptly.

Remember that large ships need plenty of room and will be travelling a lot faster than you think, as they enter our harbours. This also means they cannot stop quickly.

Manoeuvring Horn Signals

Horn blasts indicate what a vessel is about to do.

One short blast - 'I am turning to starboard.'

Two short blasts - 'I am turning to port'

Three short blasts -  'My engines are operating astern' - this does not necessarily mean my craft is going backwards.

A blue icon of a horn with three red crescent marks coming from it illustrates three short blasts

 Five or more short blasts - 'I don't understand your intentions' - better known as 'what are you doing?'

Reduce your speed: around people, vessels and the shore

The speed of all vessels must be no more than 5 knots when the vessel is:

  • Within 50m of any other vessel.
  • Within 50m of any person in the water.
  • Within 200m of the shore, any structure or vessel flying a dive flag.

Speed-restricted areas

A permanent speed restriction applies in the following areas:

  • Bon Accord Harbour (Kawau Island) – 5 knots.
  • Waitemata Harbour (Harbour Bridge to North Head) – 12 knots.

Other restricted areas

Learn more about other Auckland Harbour restricted areas.

Avoid excessive alcohol

Alcohol can affect your ability to react when something goes wrong on the water:

  • The skipper in charge of a vessel must not be intoxicated.
  • Drinking alcohol could increase the likelihood of you ending up in the water by accident.
  • It can change the way your body reacts when entering the water.

Vessel Identification

  • To help with identification, powered vessels over 4 metres and non-powered vessels over 6 metres are required to be clearly marked with a name or number.
  • The mark needs to include a minimum of two letters or numbers which are not a vessel’s brand, make or model. The name and/or number must be of a contrasting colour that is legible with a minimum of 90mm high.
  • Smaller vessels, including kayaks, dinghies and boards, are encouraged to have some kind of identifier on their vessel to help with determining ownership or knowing who we may be looking for in event of an emergency. 

Jetskis and personal watercraft

  • You must observe the 5-knot speed limit as for all other vessels.
  • You must register your personal watercraft and display the registration number clearly on the vessel.
  • Jetskis and personal watercraft must be registered for Auckland, Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. Find out more about registering your jetski or personal watercraft.
  • Enjoy your personal watercraft but please show consideration for other water users.

Water skiing

Access lanes for water skiing are marked by orange and black posts onshore and/or orange and black buoys.

Use these access lanes when departing or approaching the beach if your vessel is travelling at more than 5 knots.

Important water skiing rules:

  • You must observe the 5-knot speed rule at all times.
  • All ski boat drivers must be over 15 years of age.
  • Any vessel towing a water skier must have onboard an observer in addition to the driver.

Find out more about Water ski & wakeboard areas and access lanes.

Windsurfers and kitesurfers

  • When using your windsurfer or kiteboard you must keep clear of any person in the water. Minimum 50 metres if travelling at more than 5 knots.
  • Enjoy your sport but please show respect and consideration for other water users.


For your own safety always:

  • Dive in pairs.
  • Avoid diving in areas where there is a lot of boat traffic.
  • Display the International Code “A” Flag from your dive vessel (this must be a solid replica of the Code“A” Flag and be a minimum of 600mm in the hoist).
  • If diving without a vessel, please make your location conspicuous by using an appropriate buoy and dive flag to mark your location.


There are a number of mooring zones around the Auckland region. If you wish to permanently moor a vessel anywhere in the Auckland region you will need to first obtain a mooring licence. Find out more about moorings in Auckland.

For more information

Contact Auckland Transport