2012's drowning toll lowest in six years

By Kate Shuttleworth

File photo / Greg Bowker
File photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand had its lowest drowning death toll in six years last year - but the number of power boating-related drownings is increasing.

Water Safety NZ released provisional drowning statistics today showing 93 people died in New Zealand waters last year compared with 132 in 2011.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Matt Claridge said the decrease in the number of deaths was a step in the right direction but not a reason to be complacent.

He said there were still too many males drowning in New Zealand - they make up nearly 90 per cent of all drownings - and there had been a rise in the number of drownings related to power boating, with 20 deaths last year. In 2011 there were 11.

Mr Claridge said the sharp rise in power boat related-drownings was cause for concern and something that needed to be addressed.

"At the moment a lot of skippers don't know what's available to them, as well as what skills and knowledge they should develop."

Some of the drownings related to power boating were due to the sinking of the Easy Rider in Foveaux Strait in March last year, in which eight people died.

"Even if we took that number out we'd sill have double the five year average anyway - so there's a real trend there."

Not wearing life jackets and overcrowded boats caused many of the deaths.

Last year 20 people died in the Auckland region, a drop from 24 in 2011.

Regionally Northland had one of the highest drowning rates per capita, but last year only five people drowned in the region, a drop of over 50 per cent since 2011.

Of those that drowned last year, 52 per cent were New Zealand European, 21 per cent were Maori and 12 per cent were Pasifika people - just 2 per cent were Asian.

Over half of those that died in the water were 35 and over, but 19 per cent of those that drowned were in the 15-24 age group.

This year four people have died in New Zealand waters, which Mr Claridge said was low for this time of year.

"Sometimes in the early part of January we'd be tracking at one a day on average - often we get to the end of January and we've had over 25 drownings," he said.


Environment where people drowned in 2012:

- Offshore 24

- Beaches 18

- Rivers 16

- Tidal waters 15

- Inland still waters 11

- Domestic 6

- Home pools 3

- Public pools 0


New Zealand European 49

Maori 20

Pacific peoples 11

Other Nationality 6

Asian 2

Age Group:

00-04 - 3

05-14 - 6

15-24 -18

25-35 -14

35-44 -13



65+ -11

Male - 82

Female -11

Regions - top five:

Auckland -20

Southland - 15

Waikato -11

Bay of Plenty -8

Manawatu-Wanganui - 7


Powered boat - 20

Water Sport Recreation -18

Other Activities - 17 (included road vehicle accidents and suicides)

Immersion incident - 16

Land based fishing - 10


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