Painting your boat

Many boat paints are useful for keeping your boat free of plants and animals, but there are some risks associated with using them.

Many boat paints are ‘antifouling paints’, which means they have special chemicals in them to stop plants and animals growing on the bottom of the boat. These paints are useful, because they help boats run more efficiently and safely, and also stop pests from spreading around New Zealand’s coast.

For more advice call The Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).

If a person is not breathing or is unconscious, call 111 immediately. 

How to use antifouling paint safely

Before you start

Read the label of the paint you are planning to use to learn how to use it safely. You can also ask at the store for a safety data sheet, which has even more information.

Set up a ‘controlled work area’. This is an area where nobody can get in without you knowing, and no paint can get out while you are working. You need to:

  • Make sure paint can’t get out of this area. Your marina may have a dry dock that is set up to do this properly, or you may need to put up panels or tarpaulins.
  • Put up a sign to warn if you are spraying the paint. The sign needs to make it clear the paint is toxic, and that people need to wear special clothing if they want to come into that area.

This is a job for adults only. Make sure children are kept well away.

Applying paint

Antifouling paint can make people sick, and hurt your skin if it gets on you. It can also kill plants and animals, and damage the environment. Follow these tips to stay safe.

  • Wear goggles, full body coveralls, covered shoes and chemical-resistant gloves. If you are spraying antifouling paints (not using a brush or roller), or painting in areas that don’t get much fresh air, you should also wear breathing equipment.
  • Keep alert to make sure nobody comes near while you are working.
  • Avoid working in windy weather. Wind can blow paint away from your work area.

Removing old paint from boats

The paint you scrape off your boat can still be very toxic. It can make people sick, kill plants and animals and hurt the environment. When you are scraping, sanding or removing paint from your boat, make sure to:

  • Wear chemical resistant gloves, coveralls and goggles.
  • If you are using a scraper, put a tarpaulin or drop sheet under where you are working to collect paint scrapings. Sweep or vacuum when you are done.
  • If you are wet sanding, put booms around your work area. Once the area is dry, collect the paint residue.

Getting rid of paint scrapings or old paint

You need to make plans to dispose of paint scrapings or residue. This old paint can still be very toxic, make people or animals sick, and can hurt the environment. You can’t put it in your usual council rubbish bins.

Check if your marina has a system or facility you can use to get rid of the old paint. Otherwise, contact your regional council for information on hazardous waste landfills in your area.

Learn about our 2013 review of antifouling paints Plus

In 2013, we had a very careful look at all the rules for antifouling paints, including what paints should be sold in New Zealand. We spoke to a wide range of people and groups to understand how these paints are used, and the risks and benefits they bring. This consultation included:

  • the paint industry
  • the marine industry
  • commercial boat users
  • recreational boat users
  • regional councils
  • other government agencies.

After taking everyone’s view into account, we decided to make many changes to the rules for antifouling paints. We decided some antifouling paints should not be used anymore, and others should only be allowed for a few more years. We also set new rules for how the paint is made, imported, applied and thrown away.

Read all the information about our antifouling paints reassessment.

Read the reassessment decision (pdf, 976 KB).

The rules for antifouling paints

The rules for antifouling paints were changed in 2013 to make it safer for people and for the environment. You should make sure you know the rules for how the paint is manufactured and imported and how you dispose of old antifouling paint and apply your new paint.

Read about the controls for antifouling paints