Summer has officially arrived and we are heading into Christmas.
My message is simple — safety first. Whether travelling on the roads, heading to the beach, river or local pools or going out on the boat for a spot of fishing — be safe.
Last year sadly 120 Kiwis died in the water — that's just far too many. Safety around the water especially for children requires supervision, understanding safe swimming places and making sure our tamariki learn to swim.
Drowning is our third-highest cause of accidental death. As a parent of young children I understand the anxiety caused when children think all water is the same as a swimming pool. Teaching my kids to float when in trouble was a bare minimum before we ventured to the ocean and respect for Tangaroa and Hinemoana was key.
If you are going down to your favourite spot at Ngarunui near Raglan make sure you look for holes and rips. A simple thing to watch out for is a stretch of calm water with waves breaking at either end.
Also we must swim within the flags as many of our beaches are patrolled by surf lifeguards. Remember lots of beaches on the West Coast and the Coromandel have got a surf live saving club so stay within the flags.
When it comes to rivers like the Waikato always show respect for the current and always check for hazards such as floating timber if you are jumping or diving off the bank. Better still if the locals swim at a certain place — then you know it's all good.
I also want us to be vigilant with our dogs this summer. For many Kiwis dogs are part of the whānau and it's important we keep our dogs safe and keep a close eye on them around children. We must be careful at beaches, parks and backyards where children and dogs are most likely to come into contact.
Aotearoa has more dogs with the number of dog owners increasing by a hefty 12 per cent over the last three years. As a dog owner make sure your dog is registered and microchipped.
This is also a period for celebrating success. University graduations remind us that our young people and whānau who have completed their studies are being acknowledged for their hard work.
There will be celebrations of all sorts at this time so again, be safe, look after whānau and have an enjoyable Christmas period.
Nanaia Mahuta is MP for the Hauraki-Waikato electorate and the Minister for Local Government and Maori Development, and associate Minister for the Environment.