Mangawhai Waka Ama Inc Safety Plan

Safety protocols to be followed by the club and its members.

Safety Officer

The Mangawhai Waka Ama Club will always have an appointed safety officer. The club safety officer will be someone who has experience with safe on the water practices, and is responsible for educating and monitoring the practices of club members.

The Safety Officer will oversee the introduction of new members into the club, and ensure all members are educated fully in the safety requirements and practices of the club. The safety officer will also insure that members progressing to position of kaihāutu (skipper) or steerer, do so with full knowledge of their responsibilities as skipper, and with all relevant training to equip them for their responsibilities over Waka and crew.

Other responsibilities of the Safety Officer include:

Induction / Introduction

All new members or guests prior to paddling, must be introduced to the Waka by someone with appropriate levels of experience, who will inform new comers on the MWA safety protocols in accordance with this safety plan.


This introduction will include:

Every member must read and agree to abide by the safety plan, and sign a membership form acknowledging they understand the safety plan and intend to abide by its rules.


ama:                 pontoon

hoe:                 paddle

ihu:                 bow

kaihāutu:         skipper

kaihoe:         paddler

kei:                 stern

kiato:                 cross-beam member

tapāpa:         horizontal

waka:                 canoe

waka ama:      outrigger canoe

waka taurua:   double-hulled canoe

waka tere:       sailing canoe

Required Waka Ama Safety Gear

Mandatory safety gear for within harbour:

Lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFD) – must be worn at all times by all paddlers on board.

Mandatory safety gear for open ocean:

Lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFD) – must be worn at all times by all paddlers on board.

Hitting the Water!

Every waka going on the water, must have a kaihāutu (skipper) or steerer who is competent as per steering / skipper / kaihāutu criteria listed below (as per Maritime New Zealand Law)

Before paddling procedures must include:  

A waka will only be permitted to hit the water if the Skipper, as well as one other person, are experienced (in training) with a capsized waka, and the uprighting of that waka.

Skipper of kauhāutu of a waka - responsibilities:

A kaihāutu (skipper) must be designated before every voyage, typically this will be the steerer, but does not need to be on the estuary. If a skipper is not designated, the responsibility for the waka and its crew will fall on the steerer.

The MWA club stipulates that the person acting as Skipper / steerer must be experienced and understand ALL safety criteria necessary, required by the MWA Safety Plan, and having proved they know & understand all relevant maritime rules and regulations including relevant local by-laws. MWA will encourage (and support!) any individual wishing to act as skipper to undergo relevant boating education.

Wakaama within the estuary:

A skipper (not necessarily the steerer) must be designated before any voyage, and must have the experience, and be confident to meet the below safety criteria.

Wakaama in the harbour entrance and open ocean:

The skipper must be the steerer in this scenario, and must have both the experience and confidence necessary to manage the waka and paddlers as per criteria listed below.

Safety criteria:

The skipper or kaihāutu is responsible for assessing any risks to the vessel and the crew and must:

Remember under New Zealand Law failure to comply with maritime rules and regional bylaws can lead to instant fines or prosecution.

A skipper carries the burden of responsibility for his or her decisions, and is legally responsible if there is an incident. If a skipper is unsure of any of the above, s/he must consult with the club captain prior to departure.

Paddling, whether as skipper, or crew, is not permitted under the influence of Alcohol.

Paddlers or kaihoe in a waka - responsibilities:

Bar Assessment / Protocols:

All crew must be at least intermediate, and if conditions are more than flat, advanced, and competent with capsize recovery, surf recovery, and bar crossings. If the Steerer is unsure as to suitability of the conditions for crossing the bar, they must contact the Club Captain or safety officer to make the final decision.

Paddling Zones:

Off limits:

Novice training area:

Intermediate extra training areas:

Note - VERY tidal area, arbitrary harbour markers.

Extra training area:

Note - ALL crew to be advanced paddlers and competent with capsize recovery, surf recovery and bar crossings.

Novice steerer training extension:

Note - additional area for steerer training. Must have steering tutor at No.5 and intermediate crew.

Emergency Procedures

Waka leaders or kaihāutu must ensure there are enough crew members at all times who are capable of taking charge in the event of the waka swamping, rolling or capsizing. Everyone in club should be taught how to correctly attach a tow rope the waka for towing.


Capsize or rolling:

Man overboard:

Accidental cold water immersion:

The first reaction when suddenly entering cold water is shock, accompanied by breathing difficulty and an increased heart rate, which can cause death in a few minutes. Those who survive rapidly lose heat from their limbs, causing a severe loss of muscle strength and of the ability to carry out simple tasks such as putting on or manually inflating a lifejacket or setting off a flare.

Wearing a lifejacket with a secure crotch strap (to prevent it riding up) will help you to survive the cold shock and maintain your strength. Because it also removes the need to tread water or move your arms to keep afloat, it will help to preserve your body’s warmth. A lifejacket can significantly reduce the chance of death, provided you have a way of summoning help. Heat loss is greater in water than in air of the same temperature.

If you are in the water with floating objects such as upturned waka, raise as much of your body out of the water as possible.

The safety information in the following appendices are for steerers / skippers and MWA management.

Appendix 1: Safety Training 

Mangawhai Waka Ama will maintain a training programme for all levels of participant and crew. The programme will be focused on developing the competency of each paddler to participate confidently in the waka ama activity.

This will include: „


Appendix 2: Racing

The official NKOA race rules are available on the Ngä Kaihoe o Aotearoa Waka Ama website at

Club Captain, and Club representatives should be prepared for the following:

Race procedures may include: „

(Protocols for any event to be held in Mangawhai is yet to be established)

Appendix 3: Maintenance

Regular, scheduled maintenance should be carried out on all waka and equipment by suitably qualified and experienced people. This maintenance should be documented. PFDs and lifejackets should be cleaned, checked and (inflatable models) serviced regularly. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct procedures for cleaning and servicing. There should be regular audits by an expert and/or approved boat builder or ‘authorised person’ to confirm that maintenance of the waka is being carried out effectively. Audits should cover: „

Damage to club equipment must be reported by the skipper.

Appendix 4: Navigation Safety Rules

The Mangawhai Waka Ama club will act in accordance with Maritime New Zealand law.

The Navigation Safety Rule came into force on 21 March 2003. For the full text of this rule (called Part 91) and the advisory circular that accompanies it, please refer to the rules section of the MNZ website:

The key points are summarised below:

Maritime Rule Part 91: Navigation Safety is a rule made under the Maritime Transport Act 1994.

The Act places responsibility on the skipper or person in charge of a vessel for: „

The Navigation Safety Rule sets out a legally binding code of conduct for all vessel operators’ behaviour. All vessels are also subject to the Collision Prevention Rules, which must be read in conjunction with this rule.

Lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFD) :

Age for operating power-driven vessels :

If Mangawhai Waka ama use a support boat for youth Waka Ama, or ocean paddles, then the following applies:


Mangawhai Waka Ama will exercise both rules, and caution around swimmers, and other water users.

Without reasonable excuse, no vessels may exceed 5 knots through the water in the following situations: „


Recreational craft must avoid making a wake that can cause unnecessary danger or risk of damage to other vessels, structures or people.

Water skiing, towing and similar activities:

Any boat towing a water skier, boat, wake board or similar device at a speed of more than 5 knots must have a person aged at least 10 to keep a lookout, as well as the skipper. Those being towed must wear a PFD. „ Water skiing and similar activities are not permitted from sunset to sunrise.

Access lanes and reserved areas:

Anchoring :

The 500 ton rule:„

Tankers and defence premises: „

Diving :

MWA will be aware of activities such as diving that may be happening in the ocean.

Safe boating advisors :

Regional navigation safety bylaws:

Appendix 5: “Rules of the road” on the water

MWA will require its kaihāutu (skipper) or steerer to know all relevant on the water rules as per this safety plan, and Maritime New Zealand Law

Most boating accidents involve the skipper not having enough boating knowledge and experience.

It is the skipper’s responsibility to ensure safety, which includes knowing and understanding the rules that apply, before heading out on the water.

If you have an accident, ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse. Heavy fines or prison sentences apply to breaches of maritime rules.


You must keep a good lookout at all times. It is your responsibility to stay alert for other boats, swimmers, dive boats, kayaks, hazards and obstacles. Keep focused on the water ahead, especially at speed. Listen as well as look.


All boats must travel at a safe speed, taking into account the amount of boat traffic in the area, weather conditions and glare affecting visibility.

Specifically, you must not exceed a speed of 5 knots (a fast walking speed) if you are: „

When two boats meet:

When two boats are approaching each other, one has the right of way and it is called the stand-on boat.

The other boat is called the give-way boat. The give-way boat must make an early and obvious manoeuvre so there can be no confusion.

The give-way boat must pass astern of (behind) the stand-on boat, while the stand-on boat maintains the same course and speed.

Every boat that is overtaking must give way. You are overtaking if you are approaching another boat anywhere in a 135 degree sector at its stern.

In channels and harbours: „

When power meets power:

When sail meets sail:

When things go wrong: „

When power meets sail or a boat being rowed or paddled: „ 

Appendix 6: Detailed information for Waka Safety Equipment

Personal flotation device [PFD]:

Most paddlers use some sort of recreational buoyancy vest which will not impede paddling, or climbing back onto their craft. However it is important to understand that a buoyancy vest, unlike a lifejacket, may not support an unconscious person face up in the water.

Under the Navigation Safety Rule (part 91) and navigational safety bylaws everyone on a vessel, and that includes Waka, is required to have available an appropriate and correct fitting PFD, and that it should be worn at times of heightened risk such as rough seas, strong ocean currents and open waters. PFDs are essential for novice and junior paddlers.  

A PFD should always:  

-Be in excellent condition  

-Have the correct buoyancy rating for your weight  

-Be the correct size for your body  

-Be fitted properly. This usually means correctly fitting shoulder straps (some are adjustable) and firmly adjusted chest and waist fastenings. A common fault is wearing a PFD too loosely which means that when you are in the water the PFD rides up above your shoulders leaving your nose underwater  

-Be accessible


If a Waka Ama capsizes, usually some water enters the cockpit when it is righted. This can be drained either by a hand operated pump, or by a simple bailer which can be made out of a common plastic container.

Communication equipment:

A very brief message to all craft in the area on channel 16, stating that you are on the water, can alert others to your presence.

Mobile Phones:

Cell phones are restrictive in that they are only heard by the person dialled and have limited ‘coverage areas’. If you have a cell phone, of course – take it with you, but always keep it in a waterproof bag.


Flares suitable to Waka Ama are hand held flares. They need to be kept ready at hand, and also well water proofed. Check their expiry date.

Spare paddle:

Paddles can often break or get lost overboard, especially in strong winds. A spare paddle can be a life saver. Spare paddles can be kept behind the steerer but it is recommended to secure a spare paddle/s to the Kiato with rubber lashing.

Spray Skirt:

Waka Ama should use good fitting spray skirt if in open water. The spray skirt turns the cockpit into a water proof compartment and prevents excess water entering the hull. Zips and draw strings must be functional and duct tape can be used to keep the spray skirt tightly fitted to the Waka.

Tow rope:

A rope of about 40 metres can be used if you need a tow, or if you need to tow someone else. It need not be a great thick rope, about 4mm diameter will do. When using a tow rope it is very important to have a quick release fastening.

Leg leash:

Similar to a surfers leg leash, the leash commonly made of flexible cord or webbing goes around your ankle secured by a Velcro strap, the other end connects to the Waka. The purpose is to keep you attached to the Waka should it capsize. This is required for W1 paddlers using surf rigger style canoe (see example photo). These Waka are very light and could easily get blown away from you in windy conditions. However use of a leg leash while departing or landing in surf can have dangers. If you get tipped out and tumbled about in surf you run the risk of being entangled in the leash.

Waka visibility:

There are many factors that can prevent boaties from seeing Waka and other craft that sit low in the water. Conditions such as choppy water, fog, glare, sun strike, rain, wind in the eyes, and salt spray on the windshield, poor vision or a combination of any of these can 3 affect a boatie’s ability to spot a small craft in the water. Waka paddlers and others using similar craft can do a lot to dramatically improve their visibility – and therefore their own safety.

Maritime rules require that, as a minimum, waka paddlers must carry a torch to prevent collision. Wearing a head torch leaves your arms free to paddle. In addition, mounting an all-round white light (or a red, green and white sector light) on your rear deck above head height means you will be visible from all directions.

Use your head:

Your head is your highest point – make it as bright as possible. Day-glow orange or yellow hats are highly visible.

Blazing paddles:

Motion is another important visibility tool. Because your hoe (paddle) is in constant motion while paddling, you can increase your visibility by using reflective tape on blades or shafts, in combination with strips of day-glow tape.

Fly the flag:

Day-glow orange and yellow chopper flags provide a permanent bright flash at a good height above the water. Chopper flags ‘break the horizon’ of other vessels and draw attention to the Waka.

Have a colourful craft:

Choose a Waka in a bright, contrasting colour. The highest visibility potential is achieved when your boat contrasts with the sea and surrounding backdrops and with your clothing, paddles and flag. Bright, multi-coloured Waka give greater contrast.

Dress to impress and protect:

Wearing a day-glow orange or yellow paddle jacket or over shirt offers the highest visibility potential. New Zealand coastal weather can change rapidly so paddlers should have clothing for all anticipated conditions. Paddlers are very exposed to the elements. The aim is to be able to stay warm and dry in all conditions.

Warm, dry clothing:

Effective clothing for paddlers in winter is a top made of polypropylene (or similar synthetic fibre), plus a waterproof wind shell as necessary.

Modern synthetic clothing holds very little water and stays ‘warm’. Cotton is one clothing fabric to avoid since it dries poorly and creates heat loss in a wind. Woollen clothing can also be a problem since, although it may seem ‘warm’, it holds an enormous amount of water, and is difficult to dry. Sun hat and glasses are recommended in the summer season.

Stick together and light up:

Waka paddlers travelling in a group, particularly at night, are recommended to carry two light sources, such as a head torch and an all-round white light or sector light.

If the rear paddler has their all-round light turned on when paddlers are travelling in a tight pod, the group will be visible from behind and other members will not be blinded. The lead paddler should have their head torch on and shining forward, which won’t affect others’ night vision.

Re-entry equipment (Rescue stirrup):

If you can’t upright the Waka after capsizing you may need some equipment to help you climb back on-board. To assist with self-rescue, or rescuing others, a length of webbing with a foot loop tied at one end can assist paddlers to get themselves back onto their Waka, especially if they do not have good upper body strength.

Miscellaneous Equipment

Securing items:

Any equipment kept on the deck or inside of a Waka should always be tied on. It is not normally a good idea to carry extra items in your cockpit, as they will be lost or hard to retrieve if you capsize.

Water bottle/energy snacks:

If you are paddling any distance you need to keep well hydrated. You can use an ordinary water bottle, but make sure it is tied onto your Waka. Most paddlers use a backpack drinking system for long distance paddling. Energy bars or similar can also provide nourishment.


A sharp knife attached to your PFD can have many uses from freeing yourself or others from entanglement, to fishing.

Survival kit:

On a serious trip paddlers should carry a small bag containing survival gear that they can grab if they get washed onto some remote shoreline. This can contain first aid gear, an emergency blanket, emergency shelter, fire lighting equipment, energy food.

First aid kit:

A small, basic first aid kit should be carried.