Change of direction for Plunket car seat services

Plunket is changing its car seat service and moving away from rentals and sales to focus on the prevention of unintentional injuries more broadly. As part of the changes, Plunket plans to do more to prevent children from being injured in and around the home, where most accidents occur.

The charity’s car seat service, which has helped many thousands of Kiwi families keep their children safe when travelling in cars, will continue to focus on education and advocacy as part of the broader strategy for preventing unintentional injuries. As fewer people are using the rental and retail side of the service it is no longer financially viable, and Plunket plans to exit from rentals and retail over the next 12 to 18 months.

Plunket’s car seat service was launched in 1981, when the charity’s research found only around 20% of children were properly restrained when travelling in cars. Research by the Ministry of Transport in 2014 found 93% of children under 5 travel in car seats.

“We are proud of the work we’ve done together with other safety providers and with our funders, to help families get their children in car seats. We advocated successfully for the law change to make car seats for children mandatory, and our programmes have helped families get their children into car seats. Plunket has played its role, and we applaud New Zealand families for taking on board the message of every child being safe for every journey,” said Andrea McLeod, Plunket’s Chief Operating Officer. “There are now many retailers better placed than Plunket to sell seats and our decision to move out of the rental and retail space, which has continued to make a loss for several years, will not see a drop in access to good, safe seats available to parents.”

The number of Plunket car seat sites has declined from 283 at its peak in the 1980s, to 72 today. Despite efforts to make the service sustainable, sites across the country have been closing as they can no longer afford to operate. The majority of these sites only operate part-time, a few hours a day, several times a week.

“The decline indicates families’ needs have changed. Advocacy and education is where we see our role, along with supporting high needs communities,” said McLeod.

The change is also driven by data on unintentional injuries. According to the most up to date figures from the Injury Prevention Research Unit at Otago University; fatalities for children 0-4 years average more than 50 per year and hospitalisations average more than 2,500 per year for this age group. Most unintentional injuries happen to children in the home, the very place that should be safest.

“Over the years, our staff have carried out valuable work in helping thousands of families keep their children safer on the roads, and we are encouraged by the decline in the number of children killed or injured as a result of motor vehicle incidents. We feel we have an opportunity to build on this success, and do more to help families protect their children in and around the home,” said McLeod.

Over the coming 12 to 18 months, Plunket will work across each region to manage the exit from the rental and sale of car seats, and put in place a broader injury prevention plan of which car seat advocacy and education will be a part.


About Plunket

For over a century Plunket has supported New Zealand parents to nurture healthy, happy kiwi babies. 

Plunket is a not-for-profit organisation and is New Zealand’s largest provider of services to support the health and development of children under five. 

Plunket is dedicated to working with parents and communities to ensure that New Zealand children get the best start in life. Plunket’s services help families nationwide, through over 300 branches, mobile clinics and a free phone service PlunketLine, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (0800 933 922).

Plunket services are available free to families in New Zealand with children aged 0 to 5. As registered nurses with a postgraduate qualification, Plunket nurses are able to offer high standards of expertise and a range of services to families.

For more information visit

Injury data

Unintentional injury data shows that for our youngest children the greatest risk is no longer in travel. In 1993 there were 104 hospital discharges of children aged 0-4 as a result of being an occupant in a motor vehicle, compared to 33 in 2013. Source: Otago University’s Injury Prevention Research Unit.

Most injuries for children 0-4 occur in the home, the very environment which should be the safest for them. Many more children are hospitalized for falls, poisoning, burns, than through suffering an injury as motor vehicle passengers.

Car seat advice

  • Remember that no matter how short the journey, your child still needs to be restrained in a car seat or booster seat - buckle children in every time they are riding in the car
  • Not all car seats fit all vehicles so it is really important to try it in your vehicle before you buy or hire it, be sure to read the manual and follow the instructions for installing it.
  • The safest place for all car seats is in the back seat, so that they are away from airbags that are in car dashboards
  • For a car seat to perform correctly in an accident it needs to be installed correctly
  • We recommend that parents and caregivers seek expert assistance from a child restraint technician for a free check to ensure that your child's car seat fits your vehicle and is installed correctly. They can also advise about the best car seat for your child’s age and weight, and one that is best suited to your car
  • Child restraint technicians are available through Plunket car seat service, and at a number of other hire outlets or retailers.

Tags: 2 Comments Posted by Jen Riches on 22 April 2015

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  • I was one of the early Plunket Car Seat Providers and operated out of my home, luckily we had attic space that the unused rentals could live in. We had a big area with me being responsible for co-ordinating Opotiki, Kawerau and Edgecumbe together with my area Whakatane. I also sent out accounts and collected the money. Plunket was my Charity of choice when my sons were small and (which was social) and then Plunket proper . A good lot of lasting friendships were made here. Recently some of us older mothers, banded together again to raise money for new Plkunket rooms in Whakatane. It was a great feat.

    Posted by Lesley Brunsden, 08/05/2015 12:19pm (5 years ago)

  • I understand the decision, but still it is a loss! The team at the rental place in Mt Roskill are AMAZING ! I am sad I won't get to use this service again when I have ( proposed ) baby number 2

    Posted by Clare Hilsz, 06/05/2015 9:17pm (5 years ago)

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