Diving lessons called for to cut back drowning deaths

By Whatitiri Te Wake

The blooming of the pōhutukawa tree is a sure sign that seafood is abundant. But, according to the latest drowning stats recreational activities like fishing and gathering kai are the big reasons for the significant drowning statistics in Aotearoa.

Māori are disproportionately impacted and 96% of Māori drowning deaths were men and this has prompted divers to call for change.

Watersafe NZ says the latest drowning statistics are a 'national disgrace', and 2022 is also off to a bad start, with 17 drownings recorded in just  18 days.

Diving enthusiast and mentor Eugene Ryder says this could be due to a lack of knowledge around safety when whānau gather kai.

“A lot of them know how to swim but don't know how to dive,” he said.

Ryder enjoys gathering kai for whānau. He also uses the recreational activity to help mentor and develop young Māori. He says whānau need to do better.

“One school of thought is that men go to dive and they don't come out of the water unless they have food in their hands, but hat's a terrible thought,” he said.

According to Watersafe NZ although the year has just began - the drowning stats are already at 20% of last year's total. Ryder says Māori particularly need to keep a keen eye on tamariki.

“Don't leave your children unattended and don't leave them to help other children as well and keep an eye out for your friends.

“If young people are taught diving - they won't be led astray in the world.”