With the Surf Life Saving New Zealand patrol season officially ending this Easter weekend, and many boaties still out on the water, Water Safety leaders are urging New Zealanders not to become complacent when it comes to water safety.
Drowning is a year round issue with, Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says, on average 44% of drownings each year occuring in the cooler months 1 April to 31 October.
"Just because it's no longer summer, doesn't mean the issue of drowning goes away. And we're asking people to be careful, especially at beaches now that Surf Life Saving New Zealand's patrols are ending for the season."
"With the year off to a disappointing start - 34 deaths already - we're eager to keep people thinking about being safe in, on and around the water," Matt Claridge says.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says his team of 4,000 lifeguards have carried out over 1,250 rescues and over 2,200 first aids since patrols began at Labour Weekend.
"The team has again done an excellent job of keeping beachgoers safe. But as patrols end we're now moving to an 'if in doubt stay out' message."
Traditionally, Easter marks the official end to the Surf Life Saving patrol season and this is the case for 16 locations in the Northern Region along with seven in the Bay of Plenty region. In other parts of the country, where it's cooler, patrols have already ended.
This year has so far seen a higher number of beach drownings with 67% more drownings at (unpatrolled) beaches when compared with the same period last year.
"People need to know, from the end of the day Monday when the remaining patrols end, they're entering the water at their own risk. They should stop and think, do I know what this environment can present me with and can I handle it," Mr Dalton says.
Coastguard New Zealand CEO Patrick Holmes says while many recreational boaties will wind down their boating activities after Easter, others will continue to go boating throughout winter and need to prepare for changing conditions.
"Winter boating brings with it additional challenges such as unpredictable weather and colder conditions. Again we'd remind people to wear a lifejacket and follow the Boating Safety Code, go to coastguard.co.nz for more information. It could save your life."
Maritime NZ Deputy Director and NZ Safer Boating Forum Chair Lindsay Sturt said last year's high boating fatality toll had demonstrated that for some boaties, the safe boating message was not getting through.
"We urge all boaties to follow the basic safety rules - wear your lifejacket, check the weather before you go out and during the trip, take two forms of communications equipment and avoid alcohol. We want everyone to come home safely after a day out on the water this winter."
2015 Drownings as at 1 April
• 34 people have drowned in New Zealand waters so far this year,
including one pre-schooler.
• At the same time last year, there had been 31 deaths.
• A quarter of all victims so far this year have been aged 15-24. This is up 50% on the same period last year.
• The number of males drowning has increased 40% on the same time last year - up from 20 to 28.
• The majority - ten - of the victims were swimming when they drowned.
• There have been seven boating drownings so far this year (including non powered, powered and sailing boats).
• Beach drowning deaths - although similar to the five year average - are up 67% on the same time last year at 10.
• Eight of the deaths occurred in rivers - down one on the same time last year.
• Hawke's Bay, Marlborough and Tasman are the only three regions where no drownings have occurred so far this year.
• Northland has the highest number of drownings year to date (six), with Auckland (five) and Waikato and Wellington (four each) close behind.
Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823