As the country gears up for the festive season, Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is reminding people to be prepared before they hit the beach.
SLSNZ CEO Paul Dalton says for many people, the Christmas holidays is the first chance they have to spend time at the beach but before they rush out, they should take some time to carefully plan their destination and make sure they're taking water safety into consideration.
Learning about the risks and preparing yourself will mean everyone can enjoy New Zealand's favourite playground more safely this Christmas, he says.
"Check the beach conditions before leaving home and make sure you are choosing a patrolled beach (details at www.findabeach.co.nz) where you can swim between the flags and feel safe in the knowledge that there are highly skilled lifeguards on hand."
Mr Dalton says many of the rescues last season took place outside of patrol hours and outside of the flagged area. "If you can't get yourself to one of the many patrolled beaches nationwide, then look at alternative beach destinations that may not be affected by large surf such as the inner harbour," he says.
If you spot someone in trouble at an unpatrolled beach, Surf Life Saving New Zealand encourages people to ensure their own safety and follow the drowning chain of survival.
When you recognise distress, ask someone to call for help and dial 111. Find a flotation device to prevent submersion and remove the person from the water only if it's safe to do so. Provide care as needed and seek medical attention immediately.
There will be around 4,000 Surf Lifeguards on duty at around 80 beaches nationwide this festive season, who are committed to helping make our national playground as safe as possible.
While swimming between the flags is a well-known message, Surf Life Saving New Zealand also encourages people to adhere to a few simple rules; be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand is an essential rescue service as well as a charity that relies on the support of the community and its partners to continue its work of keeping Kiwis safe on our beaches every season.
This summer, volunteer lifeguards will spend over 200,000 hours keeping a watchful eye on over 80 beaches throughout the country. During an average summer, around 1,200 people are rescued from life threatening situations.
The annual Summer Appeal is on now and runs through until February 28, 2015. Look out for collectors in your area or text 'SURF' to 849 to automatically donate $3.
Water Safety Tips:
For more information, please contact:
Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823