The campaign, which has been running across New Zealand for four years, is based on a simple concept: people bring in their old, damaged or out-of-date lifejackets to the Old4New van in exchange for a discount on a new lifejacket.
The traded-in lifejackets that are still of a good quality and meet New Zealand standards are then kept for sending to communities across the Pacific Islands.
A number of those lifejackets will arrive in the Cook Islands later this month, with the task of distributing them when they get here falling to the Rarotonga Sailing Club.
“We’re going to approach some maritime people here and just see who – preferably in the outer islands – needs them, or would want them,” said Rarotonga Sailing Club commodore Craig Bennett, who was in New Zealand when the lifejackets were gifted.
This isn’t the first time the Cook Islands has received a gift of lifejackets from New Zealand.
“We had some given to us previously around the time of the annual Maeva Nui celebration, so we were able to distribute some then to the various hostels for people to take back with them,” said Bennett.
“It’s not just rubbish being sent up, they’re all good jackets,” he added. “I think there’s a maritime requirement in New Zealand to replace lifejackets every couple of years; that’s whether they’re being used or not.
“Generally they’re not used very often unfortunately, so you quite often get near-new jackets.”
Coastguard New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes says the organisation is extremely grateful to the Rarotonga Sailing Club for distributing the lifejackets once they reach the Cook Islands, and to Matson Shipping for transporting them.
“Since the start of the Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade in 2014, close to 1800 lifejackets have been donated to Pacific communities thanks to Kiwi boaties who may have outgrown or wanted to update their otherwise good-quality lifejackets,” added Holmes.
“These lifejackets ensure local fishermen don’t risk their lives while out at sea and that local children are kept safe on their commute to school – they help ensure the safety of at-risk communities as they provide for their families and go about their daily tasks.”.
More than 3600 lifejackets were traded in during the 10-week Old4New campaign in 2017/18, which saw the Old4New van visit 55 communities around New Zealand.
“Being safe on the water is everyone’s responsibility,” said Holmes. “The Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade provides the opportunity for people to be responsible and take the safety of themselves and their loved ones seriously.
“We’re incredibly proud of the difference this campaign is making in our communities in New Zealand and in the Pacific Islands.”
The Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade was made possible thanks to funding by Maritime New Zealand and the Southern Trust, in conjunction with support from New Zealand companies Hutchwilco and the Giltrap Group.