Top tips for staying water safe this Christmas

By Jessica Tyson

Water safety groups are urging people to stay safe this Christmas by checking for water hazards, swimming between the flags and wearing life jackets.

Drowning remains the number one cause of recreational death in New Zealand.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills is urging families with small children to check properties for water hazards and make sure pool gates and latches are in good working order.

“However the only fool-proof solution is constant active adult supervision and keeping toddlers at arm’s length at all times around water.”

According to Water Safety, in 2017, seven under-fives fatally drowned in New Zealand.  A further 26 children were hospitalised for at least 24 hours as a result of drowning-related incidents. 

“Of the seven preventable fatalities, five were in home pools.  In 2018, this number has reduced to three fatalities thankfully, but three lives too many and three families shattered by a tragedy,” the group said in a statement.

2017 drowning statistics. Source: Water Safety NZ

Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says, “Choosing a lifeguarded beach and swimming between the flags is the best way to ensure the safety of your whole family at the beach this summer.”

Volunteer surf lifeguards will be patrolling over 90 locations around the country over the summer months.

“The conditions at the beach can change rapidly and children can get into trouble very quickly so it’s always best to stay close enough to grab them just in case they do get into trouble.”

Coastguard CEO Patrick Holmes says wearing a lifejacket is key to staying safe when out on the water.

“Lifejackets more than 10 years old should be replaced even if they look fine.  People need to be aware lifejackets don’t last a lifetime and do deteriorate over time due to exposure to seawater, sun and general wear and tear.”

Holmes also urges boaties to take two separate forms of waterproof communication, check the weather forecast, avoid alcohol and skipper responsibility. 

To do a refresher on staying safe in all our different aquatic environments people can visit the Water Safety website.  People can also find out more about patrolled beaches, patrol times and facts about their favourite local beach at the Find a Beach website.