Seventy-seven New Zealanders have already lost their lives to drowning this year, with Water Safety New Zealand urging holidaymakers to ensure the number doesn’t rise further over the Christmas season.
On average, nine New Zealanders drown during the official Christmas holiday period – which began at 4pm on Tuesday and ends at 6am on January 3.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said the festive season – more than any other period year round – was a high-risk time for drownings.
“The entire nation is on holiday and for many of us, that means days spent at the beach, river, lake or around the pool. If we’re to achieve a zero drowning toll these Christmas holidays, we need all 4.4 million of us to remember the water safety basics.”
During last year’s Christmas holiday period, five adult New Zealanders (four men and one woman) lost their lives in water-related incidents.
Mr Claridge said a huge amount of work was being done by Water Safety New Zealand and its members to bring New Zealand’s high drowning toll down.
Corporate partners have also come on board, including Sealord, the supporter of the Sealord Swim for Life initiative, which has enabled more than 225,000 Kiwi kids to receive swim to survive lessons and ActivePost. This is helping spread the water safety message to Maori through its Kia Maanu, Kia Ora initiative.
“Funding is limited and we are constantly looking at ways that we can maximise available funds to drive the change in attitude and behaviour that will see fewer people drown in this country.”
Mr Claridge said he hoped that on January 3, he would be announcing a zero drowning toll for the holiday period but for that to happen, all New Zealanders needed to make water safety a priority.
“Wear a lifejacket, don’t mix booze and boating, know your swimming ability and keep within those limits and always keep the kids within arm’s reach.”