Land-based fishing top drowning cause

By Julia Proverbs

Half of the people who drowned in the Bay of Plenty last year lost their lives while land-based fishing.

A total of eight people drowned in the Bay in 2012, down from 13 the previous year.

Of those, four were fishing from land, accounting for nearly half of all such drownings in New Zealand last year.

Nationally, 93 people drowned in 2012, 10 of them while fishing from the shore.

Matt Claridge, Water Safety New Zealand chief executive, attributed the number of land-based drownings in the Bay to the region's proximity to water sources.

"There is a really high interaction [with water] in the Bay of Plenty ... for watersports, recreation and gathering kai," he said.

"I would say for anyone thinking of going out, in, on or near the water, they need to be really aware of the risks associated with the activity."

Even in seemingly calm waters, like estuaries, there could be really fast moving currents, Mr Claridge said.

"It can be quite a dangerous place at peak tide movement."

The only safe body of water was in the shower, he said.

Water Safety New Zealand's three key messages were that pre-schoolers should be actively supervised by an adult, all children should learn swimming and survival skills and men should upskill.

Everyone should be able to swim 200m and stay afloat for 10 minutes minimum.

New Zealand men needed to lose the "she'll be right" attitude and make water safety a priority, Mr Claridge said.

"If we can drive change in the behaviour of men, New Zealand wouldn't have one of the worst drowning tolls in the developed world (third only to Finland and Brazil)," he said.

Mike Lord, Surf Life Saving New Zealand programmes and services manager for the eastern region, said people should check tides and wear the correct clothing.

"If you are casting off, out in the ocean or near a river mouth, you should probably have a wetsuit on, something appropriate not just clothes, like jeans and shoes," he said.

"Make sure if you're going near rocks you know what the tides are or you could get stuck in an area," Mr Lord added.

The lower drowning toll in the Bay in 2012 was likely due to a quieter summer last year, caused by bad weather and the Rena grounding.

"There are a lot more people out and about on the beaches [this summer]," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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