Figures from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) indicate the preventable drowning* toll for the official holiday period (running from 4.00pm 23rd December to 6.00am 4th January 2017) is eight.
"Compared to ten for the same period last year, it's a slight improvement. However, one preventable drowning is one too many and a tragedy for all families involved during what is supposed to be a festive time," says WSNZ Chief Executive, Jonty Mills.
Mills says this year’s number reflects the broad nature of the drowning problem in New Zealand. "We have very high participation across a wide range of water based activities, be it at the beach, rivers, lakes or pools. Sadly, the fatalities this year have been spread across a number of these waterways."
The eight preventable drownings recorded all occurred in the North Island, with zero reported from the South Island. Four of the eight preventable drownings were of people over the age of 55. Five were male and three female.
Mills says the drowning figures also show the importance of having others with you when participating in water-based activities.
“A number of these drownings were of people who got into trouble when they were by themselves. It shows how crucial it is to have someone with you who can either help or call for help if needed.”
One positive for WSNZ is young kiwi males who make up around a third of the preventable drowning toll.
"We are specifically targeting this group with our summer campaign, The Swim Reaper, this year. There were zero drownings of those aged 15 - 30 over the official holiday period," says Mills.
"We're still right in the thick of the holiday season and will be for a couple more months yet. The water is our playground. All Kiwis need to take responsibility and think water safety first, before participating in any way, shape or form."
The lowest number for the official holiday period in recent times was two back in 2006 and the highest was eleven in 2008.
WSNZ will release the provisional drowning toll for 2016 (national and regional) on Wednesday 11 January.
*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).
Jonty Mills – CEO
Jonty joined Water Safety New Zealand in 2016. Previously he had spent more than 20 years in communications and external affairs leadership, operations and business development roles. He brings expertise in stakeholder management to CEO and ministerial level, with a blend of private and public sector experience. A long-standing member of BP's Senior Leadership team and media spokesperson Jonty has a background of leadership roles in marketing, operations and business development across commercial and retail business channels. During his time at BP, he was responsible for managing the company’s community partnerships – including Surf Life Saving New Zealand, Young Enterprise Trust and Royal Society of New Zealand – and has experience in advocacy as the interface between BP and central and local Government. He also helped embed safety as the number one priority and value across the organisation and is a strong advocate for Water Safety New Zealand’s core values and strategic direction.