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Holiday drowning toll up 180 per cent on five-year average


The drowning toll for the official holiday period is up 180 per cent on the five-year average.

The preliminary figures released by Water Safety New Zealand, show the toll for the official holiday period, which began at 4pm on Christmas Eve through to 6am on January 5, is 14.

The five-year average for drownings for the previous holiday periods from 2016/17 to 2020/2021 is five.

WSNZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard said it was a “horrific loss of lives” and the toll was unprecedented.

“It cuts through every age range, water activity, and ethnicity. A common theme in these drownings was people underestimating the conditions and overestimating their ability.

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“This is a national tragedy. Every preventable death is devastating to a family/whanau and the community. It has been an exceptionally busy time for our frontline rescue services, Surf Life Saving NZ and Coastguard NZ, which indicates that the toll could have been much worse.

“We are fortunate to have such dedicated volunteers helping keep Kiwis and visitors safe in, on or around the water,” he said.

Six deaths at rivers accounted for 43 per cent of drownings over the holiday period. Half of those were aged 25-34.

The five-year average for river drowning fatalities in the holiday period is one.

A memorial at Manawatū River, where four people have drowned this summer.

Adam Blackwell/Stuff

A memorial at Manawatū River, where four people have drowned this summer.

Four deaths at beaches accounted for 29 per cent of drowning deaths. The five-year average is two.

All but one has occurred in the North Island, 93 per cent, similar to previous years, where an average of one drowning fatality occurs in the South Island per holiday period.

Manawatū-Wanganui had four drowning deaths, all in the Manawatū River, and Waikato and Auckland had three drownings.

Two of the drowning victims were aged between 5 and 14, an age group with the lowest drowning toll with an average of three drowning deaths per year.

Gerrard said while waterways could be incredibly unforgiving, everyone needed to take personal responsibility for their safety and the safety of dependants.

“We know Kiwis will continue to enjoy our beautiful waterways as the warm weather continues. We all need to take responsibility and think about water safety.”

WSNZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard says it has been a busy time for frontline rescue services, Surf Life Saving NZ and Coastguard NZ, which indicates that the toll could have been much worse

SURF LIFE SAVING NEW ZEALAND/Supplied

WSNZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard says it has been a busy time for frontline rescue services, Surf Life Saving NZ and Coastguard NZ, which indicates that the toll could have been much worse

Key safety messages from WSNZ include always taking a buddy, swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches, constant active adult supervision of children around water at all times, watching out for rips, and always wearing a lifejacket on boats and while fishing from rocks or net fishing.

Boaties and paddlers also need to take two waterproof forms of communication with them whenever they head out on the water.

“Remember the water safety code. Be prepared, watch out for yourself and each other, be aware of the dangers, and know your limits,” Gerrard said.

Since the official holiday period ended early on Wednesday, a child died in a water-related incident at the Mangamate Waterfall, on the Whirinaki River – inland from Minginui.

Also on Wednesday, three people in critical condition were airlifted to hospital after a boat overturned at Pauanui beach in the Coromandel Peninsula.

Holiday drowning deaths



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