Care urged in high-risk season for drownings

By Mike Dinsdale


Water safety officials are urging Northlanders to have fun in the water but do what they ought to so that there are no drownings this holiday period.

Last Christmas/New Year's holiday period nine people drowned around the country, including two in Northland and Water Safety New Zealand wants everybody to take more care this festive season.

Chief executive Matt Claridge said on average over the past five years 10 people drown in New Zealand waters each official Christmas holiday period - which this year goes from 4pm Christmas Eve until 6am, January 3.

Mr Claridge said the official Christmas holiday, when people flock to rivers, lakes and beaches around the country, is historically a high-risk time. And Northland, with more than 1700km of coastline, with the coasts only 7.5km apart at its narrowest and tourists flocking to the region, is a high risk area.

"In Northland, as everywhere, we need small children to be actively supervised by their parents, caregivers or other adults at all times around water and you need to be totally conscious and aware of any water hazards.

Children are naturally curious and love water," he said.

"Another group we are appealing to are the males, aged from 20 to 60, who go fishing, boating, diving and swimming and don't follow the basic safety rules, like wearing lifejackets, telling people where you are going and when you will be back and those that go swimming alone.

"They are the ones that like to go out and have a bit of fun at the expense of some safety considerations."

Lifejackets must be worn in boats in Northland, he said, and it was the responsibility of a skipper to ensure all people on the vessel had adequate lifejackets.

Mr Claridge says five people have drowned in Northland so far this year, and while the numbers are down on the same time last year, it's still too high.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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