With warmer weather fast approaching thousands of Kāpiti Coasters will be taking to the water and safety and vigilance will vital.
New Zealand Water Safety Month is approaching halfway and tragically since the campaign started six people have fatally drowned in preventable incidents.
“This is a tragic reminder of how many New Zealanders are needlessly losing their lives while in, on and around the water. Every fatality leaves a devastated family and community behind,” says Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills.
“It’s also a reminder of what we are potentially facing this summer. Increased numbers of New Zealanders heading to our waterways after a really challenging year. One bad decision, one moment of over confidence or inattention can be fatal,” says Mills.
The six preventable deaths since October 16 include one person aged 0-4, one aged 25-34, two aged 45 – 54 and two aged 65+.
“This is also reflected in the data over the last three years, with growing numbers of older New Zealanders losing their lives in the water,” says Mills.
Preventable fatalities in the 55 – 64 year old age group increased to 13 in 2019 compared to 7 in 2018, and the 65+ age bracket had the highest number of fatalities over 2018 (17) and 2019 (15).
“Kiwis are staying active longer and perhaps not making the necessary adjustments or possibly ignoring the need to use a little more caution,” says Mills.
Of the four over 45 year old fatalities since October 16, two were swimmers, one was free diving and one was in a powered boat.
“New Zealand’s drowning problem is not one dimensional. The annual drowning toll represents a wide range of age, ethnicities, activities and water environments,” says Mills.
In 2020, despite the COVID-19 lockdown at the end of last summer 54 people have died in the water in preventable incidents*. In 2019 there were 82 preventable drowning fatalities.
“When we say “preventable”, it means a water safety intervention could have prevented the fatality. Maybe it was overconfidence, a knowledge or skill deficit, or a bad decision - Kiwis need to take more personal responsibility and respect the water,” says Mills.
“It’s so important people follow the correct safety guidelines for the aquatic activity they are undertaking and remember the Water Safety Code – Be prepared, watch out for yourself and each other, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.”
Jonty Mills says parents and caregivers also need to take responsibility for babies and toddlers around water. “Constant active adult supervision is the only way to keep them safe. Any body of water poses a hazard. It takes less than a minute for a child to drown.”
Water Safety Month is an initiative of the Safer Boating Forum and ran for the first time in 2019. The month was created to get people thinking about water safety as we head into summer.