Summer has officially arrived today but an early rise in the number of visitors to unpatrolled beaches has Dunedin's Surf Lifeguards calling for caution.
Volunteer lifeguards are already patrolling at a number of main beaches on the weekends including St Clair, St Kilda, Brighton and Warrington and the weekday service is due to begin on December 18.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Southern Region Manager Stu Bryce says the recent warmer weather has seen people heading to Dunedin's beaches earlier than usual.
"I cannot stress enough, the need for people to choose one of our local patrolled beaches to swim at. Surf Lifeguards are there to keep the public safer and if you choose an unpatrolled beach, you are taking a big risk," he says.
Mr Bryce says if people cannot get to a patrolled beach, or wait to swim during patrol hours, then they need to consider the dangers before entering the water.
"If you're at a remote location or you're the only one swimming, it's going to be that much harder to get help, and time can be the difference between life and death."
When it comes to children, Mr Bryce says supervision is key. "You have to keep them within arm's reach at all times," he says.
Patrols during the week that are funded by the Dunedin City Council start on December 18 to coincide with the end of the Primary School year.
"For those High School students finishing NZEA exams today, well done and enjoy the summer but please ensure you and your friends are safe. A good rule is "if in doubt stay out," he says.
Last summer was one of the worst in many years with 19 beach drownings between Labour Weekend and Easter- up 36% (five drownings) on the previous summer, despite the poor weather keeping many people out of the water.
To find you nearest patrolled beach, visit www.findabeach.co.nz and to learn how to identify a rip and what to do if caught in one, visit www.findabeach.co.nz/besafe/hazards/rips/
Local patrol times:
Warrington: Weekend patrols November 18-March 11 and weekday
patrols from December 18- January 26
St Kilda: Weekend patrols November 4-March 25 and weekday patrols from December 18- January 26
St Clair: Weekend patrols October 28- March 18 and weekday patrols from December 18- January 26
Brighton: Weekend patrols November 4- March 11 and weekday patrols from December 18- January 26
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager
Phone 0276 488 823
Email email@example.com or
Stu Bryce, Southern Region Manager
Phone 027 557 1012