Safety concerns as Kiwis flock to waterways

File photo.

After a difficult year New Zealanders are keen to hit the beaches, lakes and rivers this holiday season and the numbers have water safety advocates on edge.

“While we want everyone to enjoy the summer break we need everyone to take some personal responsibility for their safety this summer,” says Water Safety New Zealand spokesperson Sheridan Bruce.

“We want zero drowning fatalities over the Christmas and New Year holiday and everyone to think about water safety.”

Currently the toll of 65 for 2020 is down on 75 at the same time in 2019 which was expected due to the COVID-19 lockdown at the end of last summer.

“Even though the toll is down it is still too many lives needlessly lost. Families and communities left devastated and it doesn’t have to be this way,” says Bruce.

“Our frontline rescue services Surf Life Saving NZ and Coastguard NZ are bracing themselves for a busy summer but everyone can play a part by thinking about water safety.

“People just need to remember some key water safety rules,” says Bruce.

Key safety rules:
• Be prepared – check the weather, your gear and the water conditions
• Never go into, on or near the water alone – who will help you if something goes wrong?
• Look after yourself and others - constant active adult supervision of babies and toddlers at all times around water – not older children, but designated adults
• Know the risks and know your limits
• Check pool gates and latches are in good working order
• Empty paddling pools after use
• Obey warning signage, get local knowledge and check the forecast
• If in doubt, don’t go out
• Avoid drugs and alcohol around water

For boaties, diving and fishing:
• Wear a lifejacket when rock and net fishing – expect the unexpected
• Boaties & paddlers as well as a lifejacket need two forms of waterproof communication
• Divers & snorkelers take a buddy, follow best practice, check the forecast and your equipment and stay within your limits

At rivers and beaches:
• Rivers have claimed more lives than beaches since records began
• Don’t swim near dams or waterfalls, check for hidden objects
• Stay clear of rivers after heavy rain
• Swim between the flags at a patrolled beach
• Rip safety - Remember the three R’s – Relax, Raise, Ride

“Talk about water safety with your family and friends. New Zealanders love to play in the water but there is always risk. Everyone just needs to be aware and think for a few minutes about water safety before you head to the water. It could save your or your loved ones lives” says Bruce.

“All it takes is one moment of carelessness, one moment of unnecessary risk taking, one moment of stupidity.”

The summer holiday period officially started at 4pm on Thursday December 24 and runs through to 6am Tuesday January 5 2021.

Last year the holiday toll was six preventable drowning fatalities, and for the last five years the average during this period is 7.4.

“Every one of these deaths is a tragedy for a family and a community” says Bruce. “This unnecessary loss of life has a real and profound cost to our society.

“We wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday period, but remember the water safety code. Be prepared, know the risks and your limits, and watch out for yourself and others.”

Go to for more water safety information.

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