Nearly five times as many recreational boaties have died this year in preventable water incidents compared to 2018.

In total, 18 boaties have died compared to four last year. There have also been six deaths of children aged under 5.

This year so far the overall number of preventable deaths on the water total 57. Last year 66 people died.

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The stark numbers coincide with government, volunteer and sports organisations in and around the water banding together to promote water safety.

Today, the country's first Water Safety Month has been launched because too many Kiwis were dying in local waters.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

A preventable death was one where water safety intervention could have had an influence and helped prevent the incident.

The month was designed to get people thinking about preparing before they go in, on or around the water this summer.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford this morning joined representatives of the Safer Boating Forum in Auckland to launch the new initiative.

Maritime NZ, Coastguard, Surf Life Saving, Drowning Prevention Auckland and Water Safety NZ were just several of 24 boating and water organisations involved.

Maritime NZ will start the month next week with Safer Boating Week, leading up to Labour Day weekend when many boaties hit the water again.

The key message was "prep, check, know" - prep your boat, check your gear and know the rules before getting back on the water.


Meanwhile, Coastguard NZ expanded its Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade which will now visit 63 locations around the country this summer.

Surf Life Saving was urging anyone heading to the beach to swim between the flags - where it was safest.

Anyone who was caught in a rip should remember and practise the three R's - relax and float, raise your hand and ride the rip.

Elsewhere, Water Safety NZ would be reinforcing its message around constant active adult supervision of toddlers and small children at all times around the water.

The organisation's annual funding round would also invest $2 million in drowning prevention programmes this year.

Water Safety NZ would also invest in Maori drowning prevention and regional water safety strategies in the high-risk areas of Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.