OUR VIEW - Drowning figures no reason to be blase

Perhaps the water safety message is finally beginning to get through.
That's the logical conclusion from new figures released by Water Safety New Zealand last week showing 86 people drowned in New Zealand in 2010, a record low figure.
Of course, that's still 86 people too many and the fact serious inroads appear to be being made into this country's drowning rate will be little comfort for those grieving the loss of a loved one.
There's positive signs in the Bay also. Despite our temperate climate and abundance of beaches and waterways, the six people that drowned in the Bay of Plenty last year translated into 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people, ranking the region seventh out of 11 nationwide.
Two people drowned in Tauranga, two in the Opotiki district and two in the Whakatane district.
In all, last year's death toll in the Bay is down on 2009, where seven people lost their lives and below the 2005-2009 average, of eight deaths per year.
Unsurprisingly, the summer months of December through to February have traditionally recorded the highest number of fatalities, so continued vigilance is required as we continue to bask in warmer weather.
The message is clear - young children need to be supervised in the water until such time as they are able to keep themselves safe, and learning to swim at a young age is critically important.
Sadly, however, it's not just the young who put themselves at risk in the water.
There's no shortage of tragic tales of teenagers or adults who have made a stupid decision that has ultimately cost them their lives - jumping into water without first checking the depth, swimming in swollen, fast-moving rivers, or deciding to take a dip at the beach while under the influence of alcohol.

Hopefully, through continued education, less people will make these sorts of decisions, and the drowning rate in the Bay of Plenty and across the country will continue to drop.
The closure of the Maketu wharf where a woman fell and died this month is a good move.
Rotorua woman Atiria Raupita, 36, died after falling off the wharf late at night on January 3, and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has since closed the wharf, and intends to place barriers and signage at the site.
While it is not yet known how long the wharf will be closed for, it will clearly be for as long as it takes for a police investigation to be completed, and for the council to determine what needs to be done to make it safe.
The family, friends and partner of Ms Raupita deserve no less than a full investigation into her death and for every possible step to be taken to ensure there is no repeat incident.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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