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With the weather looking good Water Safety New Zealand wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable Waitangi weekend, and reminds everyone to remember the water safety code:

  • Be prepared
  • Watch out for yourself and others
  • Be aware of the dangers
  • Know your limits

“Things can change quickly when you are out on the water or fishing, diving or swimming. It’s really important everyone is aware of the risks and aware of their own limits,” says spokesperson Sheridan Bruce.

So far in 2021 there have been ten preventable* drowning fatalities in 2021 compared to 11 at the same time last year.

Over the Waitangi long weekend in 2017 five people lost their lives in preventable drowning incidents. “That was a weekend of tragedy leaving five families and communities devastated. We urge everyone to take a moment to think about water safety this long weekend,” says Bruce.

 Of those five incidents in 2017, one was an under-five, two were swimming, one was in a powered boat and one was struck by a rogue wave. The environments were a home pool, a river, beaches and offshore.

 “This indicates what a complex issue drowning is in New Zealand and how important it is to remember wherever there is water, there is risk,” says Bruce.

 The key messages are:

  • Swim between the flags at a patrolled beach
  • Learn how to spot a rip and the 3 Rs of rip survival
  • Constant active adult supervision of the under-fives
  • Boaties and paddlers check the forecast, wear a properly fitting lifejacket and take two forms of waterproof communication
  • Always take a buddy
  • Rivers can be unpredictable and contain hidden dangers
  • Remember you have less buoyancy in fresh water than in salt water. Swimming in fresh water uses up your energy faster and our lakes and rivers are also often cold which also uses up your energy.

 “If you are travelling to a new area do some research and about the local risks or ask the locals,” says Bruce. “If you’re at a holiday homes with little ones check for hazards and if there’s a pool make sure the gates and fences are working properly.”

 With the explosion in boat and watercraft sales and also growing interest in underwater activities it is also critical that people make sure their safety knowledge is up to speed.

 “There is a lot of safety information on our website but also Coastguard Boating Education and NZ Underwater have great free online resources so people can check they have the basics right and can enjoy these activities safely,” says Bruce.


For media enquiries please call Ben Christie on 021770285 or email

*Preventable drowning fatalities are those where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) while non-preventable drowning deaths include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death).

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) gives no warranty as to the correctness of the information or the data provided as it is supplied to WSNZ by third parties not under its control.  While WSNZ is satisfied as to its accuracy for the purposes for which it is supplied to it, WSNZ shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising directly or indirectly from the use of any data supplied.  All reported statistics are provisional.  All DrownBase™ statistics are reported as death by drowning.

Enjoy the water but think safety

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