Police push water safety as temperatures soar

By Sam Hurley

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Police are urging people to stay safe on the water this summer as the National Dive Squad continues to recover a missing kayaker off the East Coast.

Since Christmas, the Police National Dive Squad has recovered five bodies from New Zealand waters. A sixth operation is currently underway in Gisborne to recover a missing kayaker who was not wearing his lifejacket.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams from the Police National Dive Squad said as summer temperatures soar, beaches, rivers and lakes become more inviting, but people should be safety conscious before taking the plunge.

"Our message to all water sports enthusiasts this summer is to think about safety before getting in the water. Be prepared and keep an eye on the weather and water conditions. If the conditions are unfavourable, put your gear away and have a break.

"Unfortunately, 81 people lost their lives from drowning during 2013. We all need to take time to consider all activities around water ... if it is just ensuring we are actively watching and supervising those in the water."

Drownings were down in New Zealand waters in 2013 (81), from 98 in 2012 and the lowest number since records began in 1980.

However Hawke's Bay was one of five regions to show an increase last year. Four females and two males died by drowning in Hawke's Bay in 2013 after none in 2012, including Wairoa man Sage Wi Smith, 22, and his seven-year-old nephew Kustom Michael Soljah Blandford at Whakaki beach near Wairoa last November.

Mr Adams said the message extends to those diving this summer. Four people lost their lives from complications while snorkelling, scuba diving or free diving last year.

"It is often a series of events or poor decision making that can lead to drowning. The onus is on the divers themselves to recognise, maintain or manage these issues to ensure a safe experience."

He said many factors including limited air supply, exceeding safe ascent rates, ill-fitting equipment, and diving without a buddy can have fatal consequences. "When such factors occur on their own they can often be dealt with by the diver. However when faced with a combination of these, the diver is placed under enormous stress and may begin to panic. Panic reduces the diver's cognitive ability to work through the situation. The situation can begin to escalate beyond control and may not be dealt with successfully.

"Make sure your equipment is appropriate for the activity taking place; you are familiar with how they operate, and wear a life jacket where applicable.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says all New Zealanders need to make water safety a priority.

"A huge amount of work is being done to drive attitudinal and behavioural change when it comes to water safety. We need everyone to always remember the basics and take the necessary precautions if we're to reduce our drowning toll for good."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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