Recreational boating


New navigation safety bylaw changes - boats must have ID

If you belong to a sporting body you should check with your organisation or Environment Canterbury as your organisation’s ID system may have already been approved by the Harbourmaster’s Office. If you’re already approved, it can be used instead of your trailer registration. If you have an existing Maritime NZ registration number or a radio call sign, then this can be displayed.

If your boat is towed on a trailer you should:

Have the registration number of the trailer on each side of the vessel, and it must be at least 90mm high. It has to be seen in daylight from 50m away – this could be a sticker with a colour that contrasts with your boat’s hull.


If your boat isn’t towed on a trailer:

You must display a unique identifying name and/or number either side of the hull.


If you are in a non-powered vessel 6m or less in length, or a paddle craft, or solely powered by oars:

You must have the current owner’s name and contact details somewhere on the vessel. It can be as simple as writing it with marker pen inside the hull.


Remember: If you’re on the water in any type of vessel 6m or less in length, you must wear a lifejacket

There are a wealth of activities and competitive sports you can do on Canterbury's waterways. Whether you're rowing, kayaking, on a jet ski, sailing or on a stand up paddleboard we want all recreational boaties to stay safe, no matter what you're doing. 

Please check if there are any hazards you need to know about before heading out.

We'd also like to hear about any accidents or bad behaviour you see.

Key information

Current boating notices

See any current or upcoming events, and changes to local boating requirements. This includes temporary regulations made under the Bylaw for specific short term purposes, such as power boat races or large scale swim events, but also minor changes to Bylaw rules for particular areas the water user community has asked for and supports.

Harbourmaster's Approval for use of existing vessel ID system - Canterbury Outboard Boating Club

Harbourmaster's Approval for use of existing vessel ID system - Lake Tekapo Powerboat and Water Ski Club Inc

Temporary Exemption for power-driven safety vessels to access Corsair Bay - KPMG Real Swim series

Rowing Regattas and other closures for Lake Ruataniwha - 2016-2017 season

Harbourmaster's Approval for use of existing vessel ID system - Jet Boating NZ; Yachting NZ; Little Rakaia Boating Club

Harbourmaster's Approval for use of existing vessel ID system - Surf Life Saving NZ

Access restrictions at Gollans Bay due to rock blasting

Temporary Reservation - Ruataniwha Slalom Course - Twizel Water Ski Club

Temporary Reservation Certificate - New Brighton Power Boat Club - Power Boat Racing - Lake Forsyth/Wairewa

Temporary Reservation Certificate - Harbourmasters Office - Speed Uplifted Zone for Lake Middleton

Access restrictions at South Bay, Kaikoura, during harbour rebuild

Temporary speed uplifting for club events - Jet Boating NZ - Ahuriri River

Temporary Reservation Certificate - Harbourmasters Office - Avon River from Barbadoes Street to Fitzgerald Avenue, Christchurch 

Please also check for hazards in Canterbury.

Personal flotation devices / Lifejackets

Personal flotation devices (PFDs) — commonly known as lifejackets and buoyancy vests — come in a variety of designs and sizes. It’s important to wear the right one in the right situation, as it could save your life. Looking after your PFD properly will ensure it has a longer life.

PFDs provide more than flotation. They allow a person in the water to keep still and conserve energy, which helps delay the onset of hypothermia. PFDs also provide protection from injury in boating collisions or if your boat runs aground. Find out more from Maritime New Zealand.

Under Canterbury boating rules:

  • PFDs  must be *worn at all times on craft 6m or less in length except when the craft is tied up or at anchor.
  • All craft must *carry PFDs of an appropriate size for every person on board.
  • Everybody must wear their PFD if there are circumstances which cause danger or risk to the safety of people aboard.
Examples of these situations are:
  • tides, river flows, rough seas (eg bar crossing)
  • adverse weather, adverse visibility or emergencies
  • poor visibility including hours of darkness
  • other risk situations can include coast or lakes with many hazards (eg Kaikōura); or areas where there is very high intensity boating activity, which occurs at peak times in many smaller lakes (eg Lake Opuha and Lake Ruataniwha).
*There are a very small number of exemptions to these two overall rules, and these are stated in the Bylaw. Details can be provided by the Harbourmaster’s Office. If you’re in any doubt about whether you should or shouldn’t wear a PFD, wearing one is best.
Incidents, accidents and enforcement

We patrol the region during peak summer periods to help ensure all water users are safe. If you see any bad behaviour on our water ways please contact us.

Whether you report via email or phone, please supply as much information as possible.

  • Date and time of the incident
  • Detailed location (eg Timaru, Caroline Bay, south end of beach)
  • Offending vessel details — length, colour, type of boat, identifying marks if any
  • Details of the trailer or vehicle connected with the vehicle (if possible)
  • Details of what you witnessed and the concerns you have.

In some cases we will be able to identify the person or vessel responsible. This will allow us to ensure those responsible understand the bylaws. In some cases we will be unable to identify those responsible but we are able to keep a record and may be able to identify them in future. In both cases we are able to better understand where our enforcement patrols need to be undertaken and at what times of the year.

If you become involved in an accident, or a near miss, please also report this to us. The Bylaw requires you to do this, and it is likely your insurance company will contact us to ensure the accident is reported and check if we are taking enforcement action.

The Navigation Safety Bylaw contains rules that apply in the Canterbury region alongside those of the nationally applicable rules in Maritime Rules part 91 and Martime Rules part 22
In some instances, where allowed by law, the Bylaw rules may go further than those in the Maritime Rules. An example of this is the PFD rules.
To apply for an exemption from any part of the Bylaw please complete this exemption form.
Regional Boating information

For generic rules regarding speed and general rules of the water see the Navigation Safety Bylaw and Maritime Rules part 91 and Maritime Rules part 22

The Bylaw also contains more information on boating safety requirements on most lakes and waterways, including many rivers, in the Canterbury region.