Too many people dying in the water – NZ Water Safety Month aims to change that

Friday, 18 October 2019

Too many Kiwis are dying in the water so Surf Life Saving NZ is getting together with a number of other agencies to put a spotlight on water safety.

Maritime NZ, Water Safety NZ, Coastguard NZ, Drowning Prevention Auckland and Surf Life Saving NZ are among those launching NZ Water Safety Month today.

The month will put a spotlight on key safety messages and initiatives to keep beach goers and their whanau (family) safe.

So far this year, 57 people have died in the water, compared to 66 in all of last year – that includes 18 recreational boaties this year, compared to just four last year.

The Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, launched the new initiative in Auckland this morning on behalf of the Safer Boating Forum – 23 boating and water safety organisations that also include harbourmasters, the marine industry and a number of boating agencies.

All the organisations – government, volunteer and sports bodies – are working together to get water safety messages out.

Maritime NZ starts the month with Safer Boating Week leading up to Labour Day weekend, which is when many boaties get back on the water after winter.

The theme is “prep, check, know” – prep your boat, check your gear and know the rules before getting back on the water.

Coastguard NZ has expanded its Old4New lifejacket upgrade, with more than 3000 new lifejackets available around the country this summer.  Maintenance and replacement is key to ensure lifejackets work when they are needed.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says the safest place to swim is between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach.

“Our Surf Lifeguards are constantly assessing where to place the flags on the safest part of the coast line. These assessments are ongoing throughout the day and flags may need to be moved to ensure people are swimming in the safest place,” he says.

“Surf Lifeguards are constantly watching over people swimming between the flags, often intervening well before a person even realises they may be getting into danger.”

Rips are a major reason for rescues and anyone who gets caught in a rip should remember and practice the 3Rs to give them the best chance of getting to safety.

  • Relax and float to conserve your energy
  • Raise your hand to signal for help
  • Ride the rip until you can swim safely back to shore or help arrives.

Hundreds of thousands of boaties are using small paddle craft, like kayaks and stand up paddle boards, and jet skis, and the numbers are increasing.

People using these types of craft don’t always know the risks they face. This summer there will be new pilot programmes to meet people on the beaches and provide them with simple, fun advice and help.

Water Safety NZ is increasing funding to $2 million this year for water safety organisations to work with people. This includes drowning prevention programmes; Water Skills for Life training in primary schools; Māori drowning prevention; and water safety in high risks areas of Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

The month will end at St Mary’s Bay with Drowning Prevention Auckland running a family, have a go Water Safety Day with all our organisations involved.

Boating and water safety organisations will continue their safety programmes and events through summer.


** NZ Water Safety Month was launched on October 18 with the help of TV1's Breakfast TV. You can watch the first live cross to the studio here and the second live cross, featuring NZ Lottery Grants Board Lifeguard of the Year James Lloyd from Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service, here.


For more information contact:

Melanie Louden 

Media and Communications Manager

Surf Life Saving New Zealand

021 757 433