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Ninny state

Written By: - Date published: 2:09 pm, June 25th, 2012 - 85 comments
Categories: accountability, national, Steven Joyce - Tags: ,

Everyone knows the “Nanny state” meme. If, heaven forbid, a government should try and reduce energy consumption (carbon emissions, people’s power bills and the like) by mandating energy efficient lightbulbs, then a certain kind of political opponent can paint that as “Nanny state”, too much interference in our lives. Rational policy drowned in a wave of frothing hysteria.

A couple of years ago the term “Ninny state” emerged, to describe the opposite situation, where the government does too little, with policies that are “stupid, weak and not protecting people”. Last night 3 News reported on a prime example:

Government’s last minute reversal on life jackets

A 3 News investigation has uncovered that the Government backed off making lifejacket wearing compulsory on all small water craft, just a week before it was to be signed off.

The reversal was made despite official advice saying the change could help prevent 10 deaths a year.

Now one maritime expert says the Government must take some responsibility for unnecessary deaths. … “If we keep allowing people to drown themselves, unless we make a rule change and start affecting some compliance on it, we’re going to continue to see more deaths,” says editor of Professional Skipper Magazine Keith Ingram. …

The rule change was black and white, and would have made it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn on all boats under 6m, where most drownings occur. But a week before it was to go before Cabinet an email popped up saying the then-Transport Minister Steven Joyce “has requested that the proposed Cabinet paper be withdrawn from next week’s agenda”. …

“In the absence of good evidence that compulsory wearing of lifejackets will make a safety difference, I don’t think that New Zealanders will thank me for over-regulating in this area,” says Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

“Just count every life you lose, and be it on you” is Mr Ingram’s message to the Government.

National are so scared of the “Nanny state” hysteria that they drummed up from opposition that they’re now ignoring official advice and killing off law changes that would save lives. Just another small example of the madness that pervades our political system.

85 comments on “Ninny state ”

  1. grumpy 1

    Thank God…………common sense………….

    • Vicky32 1.1

      Thank God…………common sense………….

      I know less than nothing about any maritime, because I thought that lifejackets were already required! If they’re not, why not? It seems common sense to me that life jackets should be compulsory.

      • vto 1.1.1

        Vicky, I think you have just illustrated the difference in the way people view government. Some assume that government should be involved in every single part of life (which your comment implies). Others do not want government involved in every single part of life. This difference seems to drive an awful lot of politics.

        • The government forcing you to do something that’s already smart and not exactly much of a burden isn’t the same thing as it “getting involved in every single part of life”. As you can read above, there was a lot of support for this regulation to make it onto the books.

          Why exactly should someone be allowed to put their life at risk by not wearing a lifejacket? What is the downside of this regulation?

        • squirrel

          Perhaps we could have a “please do not use state resources to rescue me” register for those of you who do not want the government involved in every part of our lives.

          As a society we expect (and should) expect the government to be there when things go wrong, thus the state has an implicit right to regulate around matters of safety. Sometimes this raises issues around civil liberties but I just don’t see it here.

  2. vto 2

    I’m with grumpy. Take the logic being applied to the end – any activity that results in x deaths per x2 participants will need to be heavily over-regulated. There is a limit to this stuff.

    Alternatively I look forward to seeing every person in a moving vehicle wearing a helmet.

    • Ed 2.1

      Which party are you expecting to legislate for helmets in all vehicles, vto?
      Do you agree with the retention of driving on the left?

      • vto 2.1.1

        The ones that want to legislate for bike helmets, life jackets, thimbles, gardening gloves, closed toe shoes, those inflatable child arm rings, raincoats, plb’s, and singlets.

        • McFlock

          I take it you put 40-gallon drums of gunpowder in the backseat of your unwarranted, un-hazmarked car before you drive full-throttle the wrong way down the street to the local bomb-range…
          Damned nanny state 

    • r0b 2.2

      Yes of course there is a limit.

      As to where to draw the line I’m always happy to be lead by the leaders / experts / consensus in the relevant field. When the relevant leaders are calling for action, as appears to be the case here, and where it has been investigated to the point that there is sound official advice available, that to me reaches the threshold for taking action.

      • grumpy 2.2.1


        ” I’m always happy to be lead by the leaders / experts ”

        In my boat, I’m the leader/expert. All kids wear lifejackets, any adult who is not a good swimmer does too. Everyone else has one nearby.

        In my opinion, lifejackets tend to restrict movement and can be dangerous themselves.

        Personal responsibility has to be promoted. Once, people were taught what was an unsafe situation and how to avoid it, now, if you wear safety gear (orange vests, hard hats, lifejackets etc), you are deemed to be “safe”. How stupid.

        • r0b

          Yeah in my car I’m the leader/expert too. Doesn’t mean I can ignore the road rules though.

          And of course safety equipment is no substitute for safe practice.

        • McFlock

          Personal responsibility has to be promoted. Once, people were taught what was an unsafe situation and how to avoid it, now, if you wear safety gear (orange vests, hard hats, lifejackets etc), you are deemed to be “safe”. How stupid.

          Let – let their kids drown for want of a life jacket. That’ll teach ’em. /sarc
          “Deemed to be ‘safe'”? By whom?

        • Draco T Bastard

          In my opinion, lifejackets tend to restrict movement and can be dangerous themselves.

          Not really.

          Personal responsibility has to be promoted.

          It’s not “personal responsibility” that needs to be promoted but being taught how to be safe.

          Once, people were taught what was an unsafe situation and how to avoid it, now, if you wear safety gear (orange vests, hard hats, lifejackets etc), you are deemed to be “safe”. How stupid.

          Yep, I’ve come across that. When I was at McDs we cleaned out the fry vats every day. We had “safety gear” that we had to wear due to OSH requirements – it was actually unsafe. One part was a full length PVC apron to prevent oil spills on yourself but had the capability to tripping you up (I know, I tripped on it). I always felt a minor oil spill on me was better than going head first into the vat.

        • Safety is about more than the appropriate equipment, but mandating equipment that really is appropriate, and keeping that mandate up to date with developments in safety equipment, can help a large amount, especially when paired with education.

          If your life jackets are restraining your movement, that’s an engineering problem, and guess what? Mandating you wear a life jacket doesn’t mandate you to wear a bulky one. We could, even, if we were clever, mandate that you wear a slim jacket so that you have good mobility, which would further increase safety.

      • vto 2.2.2

        Couple things r0b. One, I and I imagine countless others don’t want their lives directed by so-called leader / experts / etc, we want to make informed decisions ourselves. We are our best monitors.

        And two, the consensus you claim doesn’t seem to be there. In fact it aint. And further, this expert above is a magazine editor, that’s all – what qualifications would he have to comment on it? Same as a Woman’s Day editor is an expert on the royal family?

        I spend time on boats and have noticed in recent years a considerable upsurge in people wearing life-jackets. The education is working. And ianmac’s comments below re the dangers posed is right – accidents happen quickly and there is usually no time after the event to grab / wear emergency equipment.

        It is a question of limits e.g. say life jackets become compulsory. Do we then a few years later make epirbs compulsory on boats (locator beacons). And then later make wearing epirbs rather than just having them on the boats comulsory? Or step to another sector – should we make wearing locator beacons comulsory for all people who go somewhere alone, like farmers and trampers and attendees at UF Party parties?

        • r0b

          We are our best monitors.

          You may well be. Grumpy may well be. You two could be the two best boaties in the world for all I know. Good for you. But in general when it comes to risky activities, not everyone is good, and very few people are as good as they think they are. If people are drowning in small boats then we have a problem, don’t you think? Or is your offended sense of rugged individualism worth that price?

          And yes you can play the absurd reduction game, but you can play that game in both directions (let’s just do away with petty road rules!) so I’m not sure what it proves.

          • vto

            “If people are drowning in small boats then we have a problem, don’t you think?” Yes, but so do people die from countless things, like head injuries in car accidents that helmets would prevent. The question clearly is the degree of problem – if 10 people drown out of 1,000,000 that go boating then is that sufficient? Or 10 in 100,000? There must be a cutoff point otherwise every activity that has had a death is up for regulation, which is just silly. I think actually, a few more facts are needed around this, like how many boating peopledays are there per year for how many drownings where a life jacket would save them. (there are millions of boating peopledays each year in NZ).

            ” Or is your offended sense of rugged individualism worth that price?” Individualism is part of the NZ way. Has been for a long time, still is and will probably last for a while yet – at least until we are regulated to walk down the streets like the michelin man. I like individualism. So do many others. It exists and the rules need to cater for everyone, individualist and communalist.

            “And yes you can play the absurd reduction game, but you can play that game in both directions (let’s just do away with petty road rules!) so I’m not sure what it proves.” … this game needs to be played because it is a question fo degree. It is a way of finding where the line should be drawn.

            And as for doing away with road rules – there is of course the very well known phenomenon whereby people who are heavily regulated end up stopping the thinking process. Because it is all done for them. Ends up being more dangerous.

            I think more facts and stats are needed.

        • Vicky32

          Do we then a few years later make epirbs compulsory on boats (locator beacons). And then later make wearing epirbs rather than just having them on the boats comulsory?

          From what I’ve read (and seen) that would be a good idea! I remember watching an episode of a reality show called ‘I Shouldn’t Be Alive’ *(tremendously uneven, sometimes hilarious especially one American emoting into his camcorder about his last wishes etc, when he was nowhere near dying) – but then there was the New Zealander lost in bush who’d left his epirb on the shelf at home. What an idiot! In this case, pure chance saved him… 
          *Unemployed people watch a huge amount of late night rubbish. Sad but true.

  3. McFlock 3

    Of course, life jackets aren’t absurd due to being prohibitively expensive or redundant. Seat belts, crumple zones, brake lights, and so on make helmets redundant.
    The counter-“absurd” argument is simply that any safety legislation costs money to implement and would not be needed by most people, therefore cars shouldn’t require a WoF and there should be no speed limits on any road.
    The fact is that life jackets save lives for negligible cost and inconvenience – and often it’s not the boat’s controller who dies without them. I have no problem with life jackets being compulsory.

  4. Ed 4

    Sounds like United Future. Why are you wasting time on The Standard?

  5. ianmac 5

    The compulsory wearing of lifejackets was to be for boats smaller than 6 metres. Bad things happen to people in small boats and usually very quickly. So I am all for making it compulsory especially since others are at risk when trying find/rescue those in the water. Seat belts and lifejackets save lives especially kids. Wish this Government was less scared of action for the right things.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    I’m just going to copy/paste what I said over at RA

    Need more than just compulsory life-jackets. What we really need is a boating license system as a lot of people out in boats just have NFI WTF they’re doing. Don’t know the rules of the sea, don’t know how to read the weather and don’t know how to read a map.

    The real problem we have is that people are going out in boats just don’t know how to handle the boat or themselves if things go wrong.

    Having a boating license would be the same as having a car license – proof that you know what you’re doing.

    • Clashman 6.1

      dtb, “Having a boating license would be the same as having a car license – proof that you know what you’re doing.”
      LOL. Dont get out much, eh?

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        Have you got anything more pointless to say or is that it?

        • Clashman

          Why so sensitive, are you a driving instructor or something?

        • Clashman

          I actually agree with you about licensing boat operators, but I think that you chose the worst possible example (car license) with which to illustrate your argument.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Then why didn’t you say that and why you think it? Then we could have had a debate. Instead you went for a moronic ad hominem attack.

            • TheContrarian

              “moronic ad hominem attack”

              Yeah, you’d never stoop so low….oh wait.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Citation needed.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Yeah, you proved you’re an idiot (I answered all you questions but you kept asking them) and then I told you that you’re an idiot and that makes it not an ad hominem.

                    • Well you actually hadn’t answered my questions and called me an idiot because you figured you had.

                      It is still stooping low to the level of name calling, dude.
                      Not matter what you think you were doing – still stooping pretty low.

                      But if you could show me where you answered the following questions you comment may have more merit:

                      Draco, who do you think bears MOST responsibility for the control of ones children and their sex education:

                      A) The Parent
                      B) The State
                      C) Other (please explain what and why)

                      Do you think it is appropriate for 3rd Parties (teachers for example) to discuss sexual health and procreation issues with young children (9 – 12 yr olds) without parental consent and parents being informed BEFORE children sexual education takes place and without parents viewing the curriculum:

                      A) Yes it is appropriate
                      B) No it isn’t appropriate
                      C) Other (please explain what and why)

                      Do you think it is “right wing” for someone to believe that they, as opposed to any other third party, have the MOST responsibility in raising their children and addressing sexual health issues:

                      A) Yes
                      B) No
                      C) Other (please explain what and why)

                    • McFlock

                      ^^ thread overflow with questions that were idiotic even in the original thread. 

                      You excel yourself, contrarian. 

  7. As a recent example of the stupidity of this Government’s actions there was an accident in the Manukau Harbour about a month ago and the lives of two people were lost.  No one was wearing lifejackets.
    I suspect that this is the story that caused TV3 to investigate as it happened about a month ago. 
    Joyce should hang his head in shame.

    • vto 7.1

      I know I know mr micky, that was terrible. So very sad.

      But going out in a boat like that is like gathering mushrooms on the side of a busy road. You shouldn’t ban people from walking along the road because some people wander around beside the road with their eyes averted. You need to take care in a boat. You need to take care walking along a busy road. This is the analogy is it not?

      • tc 7.1.1

        We do ban people from walking down roads as common sense is not a commodity everyone has vto, understand your argument but you still need to legislate for the stupid.

        • higherstandard

          … and the stupid will still ignore the legislation….. just saying.

          I’m still gobsmacked by the number of people who fish off the rocks out west without lifejackets.

          • McFlock

            And people still drink-drive.
            But the legislation enables them to be taken off the roads. And a few of them get the message before they die or kill others.

    • higherstandard 7.2

      How is that an example of the stupidity of this or indeed any government’s actions ?

      Surely it was a both an accident and example of what can happen when life jackets aren’t worn, I certainly support lifejackets being worn on boats and always make sure that I take my own when going out on the water or that if people are coming out on my boat they have a life jacket available.

      I’m also broadly supportive of DTBs views of licensing boat owners although we should remember that as with motor vehicle licenses it’s no guarantee of competence.

      • mickysavage 7.2.1

        If you make it compulsory then one out of ten people who will be in an incident like this may then be saved because they were wearing a life jacket.

        Of course some may be shouting out “nanny state” loudly but do you really think they compare? 

        • higherstandard

          Yes I agree with that, but the question I asked was in relation to the example you provided.

          “How is that an example of the stupidity of this or indeed any government’s actions ?”

  8. tc 8

    After the tragic deaths of the father and son off mangere bridge a few weeks back this doesn’t surprise me at all from the NACT dealing room, takes guts and vision to lead, something they wouldn’t know the first thing about unless it concerned lining their pockets.

    It’s not like people follow the rules anyway, notice how many people still talk on mobile phones in cars (police included) what a gutless idelogical bunch who are incapable of leading but just plunder away following the hollowman script.

  9. KJT 9

    Well. I have been boating all my life.

    Most of the time I am paid for it.

    I have also taught coastguard courses.

    I wear lifejackets all the time in boats under 6 metres and make my family wear them to.
    Unless we are in water, in summer, where we can stand up, on a surf ski, board or rowing dinghy. Always when sailing or motoring…

    Over 6m they are close to hand, all poor swimmers and children wear them and I put my own on if singlehanding and if the weather is dodgy.

    Legislating for compulsory wearing of lifejackets on small boats is entirely sensible.
    Everyone should be doing it anyway.

    Objecting is a silly as objecting to seatbelts in cars. Those who risk themselves, their family and rescuers in this way are dickheads.

    I have no problem with requiring epirbs for those going further away.. A lot of lives could have been saved.

    I have a bit of a mixed opinion about the effectiveness of licensing, hasn’t worked well in reducing accidents in places such as Queensland, though I think it is a bit strange someone can drive a 50 ft launch capable of over 20 knots without a license.

    I do think anyone going boating should take responsibility for their own and others safety by taking, at least, a coastguard day skipper course.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      I do think anyone going boating should take responsibility for their own and others safety by taking, at least, a coastguard day skipper course.

      The license would be to pretty much ensure that they did and the renewal would ensure that they kept up to date.

  10. RedLogix 10

    A similarly equivalent proposal would be to make PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacons) compulsory for everyone going tramping. Immediately there would be lots of objections; the definition of ‘tramping’, the cost, the problem of false alerts, the imposition of the state into an activity that is the very epitome of ‘personal responsibility’… and so on. Lot’s of older and experienced trampers who’ve clocked up decades of adventures in the mountains would quite legitimately question why this imposition on them now.

    Yet undoubtedly such a move would also save lives. And substantially reduce the costs and risks of SAR operations.

    There are few safety measures that are ‘cost-free’ or are completely without objection. Yet as a society we accept many because we judge this cost worth paying for the benefit we gain. In this case the saving of lives. Often young and precious lives at that.

    This is a fairly normal case of thinking about the cost-benefit ratio involved and coming to a judgement around it. In the example of PLB’s for trampers I think it’s marginal, although in another decade or so I can see the case tipping in it’s favour. Already most tramping clubs require them on all official trips.

    New Zealand’s drowning statistics are very bad. Exceptionally so. In my view the costs associated with using lifejackets are fairly modest. (Although I’m not a boatie so I’m open to persuasion by someone better informed than me.) And I’d feel naked in a small boat without one, like I do in a car without a seatbelt.

    In my view the balance is in favour of making lifejackets compulsory.

    • vto 10.1

      If the balance is in favour of compulsory life jackets then I would suggest that the balance is even more in favour of plb’s for trampers (and similar others like farmers – imagine the politics on that one!).

      I would suggest that more lives would be saved from plb’s per number tramping than from life jackets per number boating.

      • RedLogix 10.1.1

        Yes.. and I’ve allowed for that possible outcome vto. Indeed if the price of PLB’s reduces from the current $550-700 range to say half that, then the case for making them mandatory becomes reasonably compellling.

        Although it then opens a can of worms around defining whether a 30min totter up a manicured DoC track counts as tramping, or how do you capture the huge numbers of overseas visitors, and so on. But doable. You could for instance require them on any trip longer than one day. So I’d allow that the ‘down-side costs’ of PLB’s and lifejackets are probably of a similar order of magnitude.

        The numbers around tramping deaths didn’t popup in a quick search, but this link to Water Safety NZ suggests that around one New Zealander drowns every three days. By contrast I doubt more than 10 trampers die every year. In a bad year.

        So on the face of it the potential benefits of compulsory lifejackets are probably substantially higher than that it is for PLB’s.

        • mike e

          the worst drowning record in the OECD.

          • vto

            Hang on Mike and Red… lies and statistics.

            You sound like those people who say ‘ooh, don’t go swim at such-and-such beach because more people drown there than anywhere else’. The reason being that more people go there to swim, not because it is more dangerous.

            NZers are some of the most swimming boating watering people around as far as I know. More people in Nz swim and boat and water than pretty much anywhere else.

            Which would explain the higher numbers of drownings. Perspective and accurate measurements are what is needed if the answer to these such issues is to be found in the stats.

            • RedLogix

              Yes I realise that comparing the ‘drowning death numbers’ with ‘tramping death numbers’ is fraught with potential problems.

              (Including the fact that there is a small overlap… for instance should we require all trampers to also wear life-jackets when crossing rivers? Probably no … because the numbers involved are so low and the high downside cost due to an unacceptable weight and bulk of conventional lifejackets. Small lightweight inflatable flotation aids might work… but they aren’t commonly available and at best they might save 2-3 lives per year. If that.)

              But at over 100 drownings per year is similar to the number of workplace deaths we used to see decades ago before the Health and Safety Act. That’s a number worth paying some price to reduce.

              You sound like those people who say ‘ooh, don’t go swim at such-and-such beach because more people drown there than anywhere else’. The reason being that more people go there to swim, not because it is more dangerous.

              I never swum at any big West Coast beach.. like Piha. Regardless of how many people swim there they’re flat-out dangerous. Call me cautious if you like.

              • higherstandard

                “I never swum at any big West Coast beach.. like Piha. Regardless of how many people swim there they’re flat-out dangerous. Call me cautious if you like.”

                I’ll call you sensible.

                We still take auckland school kids out to the West Coast from the Northshore when teaching them the dangers they need to be aware of at the beach, even a strong competent swimmer can get into serious trouble on the West Coast if they don’t know the area and think it’s as safe as the east coast.

                • vto

                  Well that kinda sums it up.

                  Danger is a relative term.

                  • We agree on a lot vto (much to my, pleasant, surprise I might add) but this:

                    “NZers are some of the most swimming boating watering people around as far as I know. More people in Nz swim and boat and water than pretty much anywhere else.”

                    Yeah don’t know about that 🙂

                    • vto

                      You might be surprised. I recall reading it in the paper so it must be true…

                      More than Europe pretty easily ….. africa same … middle east same same … asia easily… north and south america same… the one that would be tricky is probably polynesia. Remember most all peoples are scared of the water and can’t even swim, as most euros couldn’t when they came here. Swimming and swanning around in the sea, and especially living on the coast, is a recent ting. History indicates a wariness of the sea as recreation and the coast was seen as the most dismal of places to live.

                      And re agreement, yes seems so which is unfortunately unfortunate as ’tis harder to test the mind’s wanderings with someone wandering simlar ways around these parts. I try to find the tricky wanderers going the wrong way …..

                    • I’ve been around a lot of places dude, many continents and countries and I couldn’t say NZ was any more or less boaty than any other country.

                      “And re agreement, yes seems so which is unfortunately unfortunate as ’tis harder to test the mind’s wanderings with someone wandering simlar ways around these parts. I try to find the tricky wanderers going the wrong way …..”

                      yes but I am sure we don’t agree on everything. What I do respect about you is you don’t (at least in my experience – others may disagree) denigrate or otherwise insult and dismiss those who disagree with you.

                      “I try to find the tricky wanderers going the wrong way”
                      Which is why I relish in talking to Draco T.

              • Clashman

                “But at over 100 drownings per year is similar to the number of workplace deaths we used to see decades ago before the Health and Safety Act. That’s a number worth paying some price to reduce. ”

                So flotation devices compulsory for all water based activities (including swimming) seems to be the logical conclusion to that argument.
                Great, I cant wait.

                • RedLogix

                  Not really.

                  That argument tips the balance away from what is being proposed…. which just to remind you, is mandatory life-jackets for anyone in a small boat < 6m. That's not an unreasonable ask. Personally I would always wear one in that situation. (I once spent 10 weeks on a Navy ship in the Southern Ocean so I'm not exactly an innocent about what happens at sea.) But extending that proposal to cover everyone engaging in any water-based activity complicates and extends the downside cost, while probably not adding much to the benefit (ie saving a lot more lives). So on balance I don't see it as a 'logical conclusion'.

                  • vto

                    Redlogix, been reading your posts and everyone elses on this and it occurs to me that, if further regulation is deemed to be appropriate to save lives in this area, then perhaps a better place to start is licensing or some form of that. The reason is that most drownings which we have in mind in these circustances result from bad boating – from the boatman not doing the right and proper thing. Going too fast. Going the wrong direction. Hitting rocks. Hitting another boat. Leaving the bung out (true – remember that one in the Hauraki Gulf a couple years ago where a reasonably large boat sunk in only a few metres when it slowed down letting the water in and drowning two children stuck inside?).Virtually every time it is some human failing with the boat and its operation which causes the problem in the first place. It is only after the bad boating that the life jacket becomes necessary. My point is that, accepting that regulation is needed in this area to save lives (which I reserve judgment on), then one without the other may not make that much difference. An accurate analysis of the drownings may point to bad boating more than lack of life jackets. This may have been assessed of course..

                    • RedLogix

                      Interesting vto.

                      Should we make passing at least both Mountain Safety Council Bushcraft courses mandatory for anyone going into the hills tramping or hunting? It would be more or less the equivalent of licensing boat operators.

                      In both cases we know that knowledge and education will reduce the likelihood of poor preparation and bad decision making which lie at the root of most outdoor incidents.

                      At the same time we know that PLB’s and lifejackets reduce the probability and severity of harm arising from those incidents. From an H&S perspective one is a risk reduction action, the other is a consequence mitigation. ie fence at top of cliff, vs ambulance at bottom.

                      I’m not sure I want to pick one strategy over the other; logically both have their place. Whether making them mandatory improves their effectiveness or even desirable is something to decide on a case by case basis.

                      In the end you choose to manage the risks that yield the highest benefit for the lowest costs. As time goes on the costs tend to reduce, so the risk mitigation risk net widens.

                    • KJT

                      And most car accidents result from bad driving. It does not detract from the many lives that have been saved by seatbelts.

                      The fact is, even the skilled can get caught out at sea.

                      It is noticeable that the more experienced and skilled are the ones most likely to be wearing a lifejacket.

                      We know that complacency is one of the biggest hazards.

                      As most fatal accidents, by far, happen to rock fishermen and on boats under 6m, requiring lifejackets to be worn on both cases is practically a no brainer.

                      I can think of several recent accidents where all the lives would have been saved if lifejackets had been worn..

            • McFlock

              Not really.
              That’s confusing a cause for the prevalence with the solution for the prevalence. Not to mention passive avoidance with active preventative measures (e.g. lifeguards and rip signs at the popular beach).
              Let’s say that we have high rates of drownings because we’re more active in the water. Why does that mean we wouldn’t spend more money on education and regulation to lower that mortality rate? We have higher rates of skin cancer too, caused by the nature of our UV exposure. Does that mean we just say “oh well, it’s because of our UV exposure” and leave it? No – we spend money on prevention and treatment. We make sunhats part of OSH hazard-management plans, groups of school kids walk around looking like fluorescent Foreign Legionnaires, and so on. 
              If the same legislative and economic expense could prevent 50 drownings or 25 tramper deaths, it comes down to the raw numbers and the hit you take, rather than the rates of trampers vs boaties. If you’re using the same cost:benefit slide rule (e.g. a regulatory safety goal of $2mil/life saved), then the boaties might get the attention, and the trampers might not.
              Knowing when to use rates rather than raw numerators is almost as funky as knowing when to stick with the raw  numerators.  

            • mike e

              vto So we should be smarter instead we get dumber

        • Draco T Bastard

          Indeed if the price of PLB’s reduces from the current $550-700 range…

          That’s an absolutely ridiculous price. A reasonably capable smart phone is more complex and costs far less.

          • RedLogix

            Firstly PLB’s are reasonably challenging to design because they have specific reliability and robustness requirements. They spend years getting bashed around in packs, hot, cold and damp without ever being used, yet are absolutely required to work the one and only time they will ever be needed.. That sort of operational mode demands the strict mitigation of all conceivable ‘hidden failures’… which is not easy, or cheap to achieve. (They are a one-time only use device and get returned to their manufacturer for a new battery after every triggering.)

            Secondly there is the massive difference in the market volume. Smartphones must sell 1000:1 more than PLB’s. This is probably the biggest factor.

            And thirdly the initial price you pay for smartphones is usually subsidised by the telco provider…a portion of their real cost being paid over the course of contract.

            Having said that I agree that their price will probably drop further in the next five years or so. I bought my one as soon as I could afford it and paid about $850 for a GPS enabled one about three years ago. The same model is now about $600 or less.

            • KJT

              Bit of a mystery to me that someone who plonks down 36k for a fizzboat can’t afford $550 for an EPIRB.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Maybe fairly challenging to design but once designed, damned cheap to manufacture. Even at retail the parts to make the transmitter (406MHz) won’t get much beyond $20 (accepting that it’s probably more powerful than the max unlicensed 100mW), GPS between $40 and $50, an AVR or similar to run it all and I doubt if the casing would be much once you had a mold. Maybe $100 all up using retail pricing + design + battery.

              Market volume may be a factor but they get to put “safety” on it. That’s a word like “marine”. I remember when building boats, go into the general fasteners store and pick up a 316 stainless steel bolt for $1.75. Go into the chandlers and the same bolt, sold as marine stainless, was $5.

              The state could always subsidise PLBs but I really don’t see a reason as I can’t see why these things sell for as much as they do – except the possibility (and most likely IMO) that the price is over-inflated to maximise profits.

              • lprent

                You need to factor in the production assembly and testing costs. After all this is a device meant to function in salt water – the enemy of electronics. They have to handle some extremes of operating tempatures that limit the types of components that can be used. And as RL states, they have to work first time after years of being hammered around.

                Marine electronics BOM’s usually cost as much to put together as the materials. And the materials have to be o a pretty high standard.

                About the only thing that is cheap after the development phase is the fixed design and software. But the variable costs for production are pretty damn high.

  11. captain hook 11

    gimme a great big hunka dat deep fried double dunked choklit and nuts with da cheezeburga and giant soda to go.

  12. tracey 12

    outlawing alcohol would save loads of lives on and off the water…. but I digress.

    • ianmac 12.1

      So true Tracey. Nobody drinks on my boat – except water. Drink once ashore for the day as much as you like but….

  13. Grumpy 13

    Let’s just make it easier and publish a list of what people are allowed to do.

    • vto 13.1

      ha ha. You know the easiest way to deal with this is to make life jackets comfy, cool and cheap. With an inbuilt plb.

      • KJT 13.1.1

        Already available.

        See the catalogs.

        My usual one is an inflatable built into a jacket you could wear as smart casual. And cheaper than most jackets alone.

        The PLB is smaller than a cellphone.

        Hopefully EPIRB’s will continue to drop in price..

        I am not convinced that forcing people onto courses and licensing works for the lunatic fringe. Hasn’t been all that successful elsewhere, or with cars for that matter.
        You end up bugging and charging responsible people to try and stop the dickheads doing what they would do regardless. Dog licensing is a good example.

        • vto

          hmmm, have missed those. I remember when we had a 35′ clinker launch about 100 years old (well, pretty damn close). Took it out too far one day (designed for shallow inshore waters) and the thing was pitching like she probably never had before. Was freaking out expecting some of the old planks to pop and the lady go down in seconds. Luckily was alone, had the emergency gear immediately at hand and got back out of it. Lessons lessons … gotta have the safety kit otherwise you die. It is very simple. And then multiply that risk when doing such things in cold cold waters down south….

        • Draco T Bastard

          The rules aren’t there for the responsible people but for the idiots.

  14. I wonder how many people who don’t use lifejackets partly don’t because they buy into that ‘rugged individualist’, ‘no nanny state for me’ rhetoric as a substitute for thinking carefully about risks and dangers in today’s world? 

    That’s my main concern about the anti-nanny state position. It hardly ever is accompanied by what should be a tandem injunction: without the state to regulate, you are on your own in an increasingly complex world where, for you, risks will often be unfamiliar, unknown, unexpected and, often, inescapable. In other words, be careful what you wish for. 

    I don’t hear the anti-nanny staters repeatedly and earnestly fleshing out the full consequences of ‘caveat emptor’ (i.e., so-called ‘personal responsibility’) in today’s world.

    I didn’t, for example, hear Joyce say, “Look, I’m not going to regulate lifejackets and that means that some of you who don’t wear them are definitely going to die this summer. And, frankly, it will all be your fault ‘cos I don’t intend accepting any responsibility for you or your children’s deaths. It will have nothing to do with me.”

    To exacerbate this problem, in our consumer society an attitude is cultivated that once you have bought something (a boat) you are something (a competent ‘boatie’/sailor). We have the capacity to be fantasists dressed up with any gear we happen to be able to afford.

    I can buy a chess set but that doesn’t make me a chess master. I can buy a fast, low-slung car but that doesn’t make me a brilliant racing driver. I can buy a boat but that doesn’t make me a weather expert, a good sailor, a (suddenly) responsibly sober person on the water.

    The market transforms an individual’s preferences and desires into a skinned, purchasable substitute for the reality that the desire aims at. It beckons as a short cut to being what you want to be – e.g., ‘freedom-loving, rugged-individualist, water-mad Kiwi’.

    Because of the imperative to make available all and every good and service to whomever has the money to buy it, the modern market/consumer society leverages and amplifies stupidity, and then the rest of us have to pick up the pieces.

    Skills used to be acquired through direct – often prolonged – mentoring. Now, increasingly, we just buy stuff. Fortunately, most of the time our lives don’t depend on how we operate the stuff we buy. But, sometimes, they do.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      To exacerbate this problem, in our consumer society an attitude is cultivated that once you have bought something (a boat) you are something (a competent ‘boatie’/sailor). We have the capacity to be fantasists dressed up with any gear we happen to be able to afford.


      My nephew was telling me about how he went out one day and was heading up Rangitoto Channel which was, of course, filled with people fishing. Now, Rangitoto Channel happens to be a shipping channel which you’re not allowed to anchor in. So, as he was heading out a ship was coming in tooting its horn – and not one of those people who were anchored where they shouldn’t have been moved.

      Throw in the ignoring give way rules and other blatant ignorance and arrogance and the case for licensing is well made.

      • KJT 14.1.1

        Yes. We see stuff like that all the time, some of the most blatent ignoring of the rules is by commercial fishermen, and overseas shipping, who are, licensed.

        Personally I think education is more effective than licensing. (Evidence from countries that have pleasure boat licensing suggests so) It is a pity that we no longer explain road and water safety rules as part of schooling. Even school swimming instruction has largely disappeared.

        At least small boat owners can be partially excused by ignorance. Though. Trying to avoid running a 40 thousand ton tanker aground while avoiding nitwits does really make our day!

        • Draco T Bastard

          We see stuff like that all the time, some of the most blatent ignoring of the rules is by commercial fishermen, and overseas shipping, who are, licensed.

          Which means we need better policing.

          Personally I think education is more effective than licensing.

          The licensing ensures the education.

  15. KJT 15

    I like to think that I am a bit of a rugged individualist outdoor type, but, I carry a PLB both tramping and sailing because I believe that we all have a responsibility to avoid putting rescuers lives at risk.

    The better we are prepared and the easier we are to locate the less risks we pass on to other people.

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