“If in doubt, stay out!” is the key message for Kiwis heading out for a swim this summer, launching today in a new collaborative water safety video between Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ), New Zealand Police and Swimming New Zealand.
With a long, dry, hot summer predicted the three organisations have joined forces in an effort to keep Kiwis safe this holiday season and reduce the drowning toll by releasing the video with messages that could save your life, or someone else’s.
Last year 92 people lost their lives and drowned in New Zealand waterways, and this is a statistic the trio are keen to reduce.
With millions of New Zealanders visiting the beach each year and most Kiwis living within 120 kilometres of a beach, SLSNZ’s National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy said it’s vital to follow the beach safety messages.
“We are so lucky to live in a country with fantastic beaches but this means we have to be vigilant when it comes to keeping safe. It’s so important to always choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
“You also need to keep a very close eye on children in or near the water, keep them (young children) within arm’s length when swimming, and don’t overestimate their ability, or yours, to cope in the conditions,” he added.
Rip currents, often referred to as rips, are one of the main causes of SLSNZ’s 1,062 life-threatening rescues and Mundy said it’s important to know how to spot them, but also what to do if you’re caught in one.
“Rip currents will carry you away from shore but it’s really important to stay calm. Lie on your back and float, then put your hand up and call for help. Someone will see or hear you, and one of us (SLSNZ, Police and other rescue agencies) will respond quickly,” explained Mr Mundy.
Both Mr Mundy and Inspector Trevor Beggs said it’s important to remember that if you see someone struggling or calling for help in the water, call 111 immediately and ask for Police.
“Police encourage anyone using our beaches this summer to obey the water safety rules. Remember to call 111 and ask for Police if you see anyone in trouble” says Inspector Trevor Beggs.
Thousands more New Zealanders prefer to enjoy our waterways at lakes, rivers or pools at home and already this year 80 people have drowned in New Zealand and it remains the number one cause of recreational death for people under 24 years old.
Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns is calling for families and friends to also be vigilant for loved ones around that water.
“Kiwis flock to various waterways in the summer in groups, swinging on a rope out into the lake or jumping off a wharf into the river or sea is a common activity we do with family and friends. It is important that we all keep an eye out for each other and not let a loved one go swimming alone,” says Johns.
A key part of prevention is education and both Swimming New Zealand and SLSNZ offer programmes to help Kiwi kids learn how to be safe around water.
Swimming New Zealand are involved in delivering the nationwide Water Skills for Life (WSFL) education programme while SLSNZ offers a beach education programme through schools, and a Junior Surf programme often referred to as Nippers, during the holiday months at beaches right around New Zealand.
All three also encourage swimmers talk to surf lifeguards, pool lifeguards or police to know the things to be aware of any particular location as each place is unique.
“Surf lifeguards are more than happy to provide advice or information on any of beaches, so we really encourage having a chat to them especially because the conditions change regularly. They can even help you spot where a rip current might be which can be an interesting experience,” added Mr Mundy.
SLSNZ is made up of over 5,000 volunteer surf lifeguards, who last year carried out 1,062 life-threatening rescues and an additional 2,375 assists to safety, over 230,000 patrolling hours to ensure Kiwis got home safe from a day the beach.
Alana McIsaac, Media & Communications Manager
Phone 027 515 7157