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Preliminary figures from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) indicate the preventable fatal drowning toll for the official holiday period is three.

The summer holiday period ran from 4.00pm Thursday 24th December 2020 through to 6.00am Tuesday 5th January 2021."While this is well down on the holiday period average of the last five years of just under eight every preventable death is devastating for a family and a community,” says WSNZ spokesperson Sheridan Bruce.“It has been a very busy holiday period for our frontline rescue services Surf Life Saving NZ and Coastguard NZ which indicates the toll could have easily been much worse,” says Bruce. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated volunteers keeping Kiwis and visitors safe in, on and around the water.”

Of the three preventable fatalities one was a free diver, one was in a powered boat under four metres and one was a swimming fatality.

“While our waterways are our playground they can be incredibly unforgiving and everyone needs to take some personal responsibility for their safety and the safety of dependants,” says Sheridan Bruce.

With the summer season set to continue for a few more months, WSNZ is appealing to all people to make wise decisions around water. “We know Kiwis will continue to enjoy our beautiful waterways as the warm weather continues. We need everyone to take responsibility and think about water safety," says Bruce.

Key safety messages include always taking a buddy, swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches, constant active adult supervision of children around water at all times, watching out for rips and always wearing a lifejacket on boats and while fishing from rocks or net fishing.

Boaties and paddlers also need to take two waterproof forms of communication with them whenever they head out on the water.

“Remember the water safety code. Be prepared, watch out for yourself and each other, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.”

For media enquiries please call or text 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 include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death).

Drowning data is sourced from Water Safety New Zealand’s DrownBase and the figures provided are provisional as at 05/01/2021

Holiday drowning toll stands at three

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