Water Safety sector ringing alarm bells ahead of Christmas holiday period

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Using a unified voice to amplify its message, the Water Safety sector is urging people to make water safety a top priority this holiday season as a bumper summer approaches.

There have been 11 more preventable fatal drownings so far this year compared to the same time last year and there are fears that it is set to grow even further as Kiwis head out in droves to enjoy New Zealand's beaches, rivers, lakes, swimming pools and other water spots this Christmas.

High temperatures are expected in the coming weeks leading to increased participation across multiple environments and activities in, on and around the water and Surf Life Saving New Zealand, Coastguard and Water Safety New Zealand are concerned about the impact this could have if people don't have the presence of mind to think about water safety for themselves, friends and family.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills says drowning remains the number one cause of recreational death and the number three cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

The rise in fatal drownings of toddlers and under-five's is particularly disheartening, with seven occurring year to date versus a five-year average of four, he says.

"The only fool-proof solution is constant adult supervision and keeping toddlers at arm's length at all times around the water."

Mr Mills says the breadth of activities and environments makes drownings a complex problem and all Kiwis need to take responsibility for themselves and others in order to change our attitudes around water.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says the long awaited summer is here at last and wants people to go out and enjoy it safely by visiting one of the 80 patrolled locations nationwide.

"Taking a few minutes to plan a day out at the beach could just save your life. There is a very important reason why we urge people to choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags. The fact is, it is always the safest place to swim," he says.

Mr Dalton says so often, the people rescued by Surf Lifeguards have overestimated their ability and underestimated the risk and before they know it, they are in trouble.

"Take a moment to stop and think before entering the water and if in doubt, stay out," he says.

Coastguard CEO Patrick Holmes says his Christmas wish is that everyone who goes out boating this summer comes home safely.

 "There are two simple things that people can do to ensure this happens - wear a lifejacket and carry two forms of waterproof communication so that you can call for help if you do get into difficulty."

Mr Holmes says most accidents on the water occur suddenly, with no warning.

"There may be no time to grab a lifejacket and it's extremely difficult to put one on in the water. A lifejacket never ruined a day on the water so take them and wear them."

Coastguard's Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade campaign is currently touring the country enabling people to trade their old, damaged, or out of date lifejackets for a great discount on a brand-new, quality Hutchwilco lifejacket. Find out more at

While enjoying the water is part of New Zealand's way of life, the dangers are real and things can change quickly.

This summer everyone needs to remember the four rules of the Water Safety Code and avoid alcohol while taking part in aquatic activities.

1.) Be prepared
2.) Watch out for yourself and each other
3.) Be aware of the dangers
4.) Know your limits


For more information, please contact:

Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 0276 488 823

Water Safety New Zealand
Ben Christie, Senior Communications & Media Advisor
Phone 021 770 285
Email or

Coastguard New Zealand
Julia James, Communications Manager
Phone 021 435 804