MIDWAY through a “massive” three-month campaign to swap hundreds of old life jackets for discounted new ones in communities throughout the country and after a month on the road, Coastguard community ambassador Sue Tucker says she hasn’t received one negative comment.
Stationed outside Pleasure and Marine, Invercargill, last Thursday, the Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade team received dozens of out-of-date kapoc-filled life jackets which might have caused fatalities had they been relied upon as flotation devices, she said.
“We’ve exchanged about 650 life jackets in Central Otago and Southland over the last two days. Some of the kapok-filled ones are over 40 years old. The kapok is encased in plastic [inside the life jacket’s material] and people are unaware of the condition of the plastic.”
Once the plastic breached, the kapoc became waterlogged over time, she said.
The plastic was also potentially hazardous to marine life and some life jackets even contained polystyrene beads.
“Once the fabric tears, they just spill everywhere.”
Life jackets deteriorate more quickly if exposed to salt water, but with life jackets used around freshwater she also saw a lot of damage caused by strong UV sunlight, she said.
About 10,000 old life jackets had been exchanged in the past four years, Ms Tucker said.
Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes said of these, about 1500 had been fit for purpose and had been redistributed to communities in the Pacific islands.
“Life jackets save lives – it’s that simple. Two-thirds of recreational boating fatalities would likely be prevented if life jackets were worn.”
The campaign, which has been running since December 2, will continue until February 3.