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2012 Powered Boat Drownings Cause for Concern

Media Release
For Immediate Release

2012 Powered Boat Drownings Cause for Concern

Powered boats figured prominently in 2012’s drowning toll with 22% of the year’s 93 deaths occurring as a result of powered boat incidents.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) – which released the 2012 annual drowning toll figures today – say the 20 deaths that occurred as a result of powered boating is 150% up on the five year annual average of eight and cause for concern.

“The total number of drownings is down from the eight year high of 132 in 2011 but the fact that powered boating specific drownings is so prominent in 2012’s statistics needs to be addressed.”

WSNZ CEO Matt Claridge says priority should be given to direct funding into boating education for skippers, particularly those in high-risk groups such as Maori, Pacific and males.

“Yes skippers need to take responsibility and carry out the key safety precautions – wear lifejackets, check the marine weather forecast, carry two forms of communication, tell someone where they’re going and keep all gear well maintained – but there’s also a real need for the sector to work together to ensure those heading out on any type of power boat receive adequate education.”

Mr Claridge says Coastguard Boating Education train over 14,000 New Zealanders every year, but this is a small percentage of the estimated total of 1.3 million people that participate in some form of boating in this country.

“The real issue is that a lot of the people who need skipper education, don’t realise it is necessary or available. Resources must be made available to ensure all roads lead to skipper education for everyone.”

Eighty-eight per cent of those that drowned during 2012 were males, consistent with the five-year average and slightly up on 2011.

Matt Claridge says that until New Zealand men lose the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude and make water safety a priority this isn’t likely to change.

“If we can drive change in the behavior of our men, New Zealand wouldn’t have one of the worst drowning tolls in the developed world (third only to Finland and Brazil).”

Matt Claridge says there are some positive signs that the message is getting through to high risk groups – for example two people of Asian descent drowned in 2012, compared to 19 in 2011 and a five year average of eight.

The number of pre-school children that drowned is also down in 2012, with three deaths compared to 14 in 2011 and a five-year average of nine each year.

Mr Claridge says there’s still a huge amount of work to be done.

“In 2013 we’ll be continuing to work with the sector to educate the priority high risk groups such as men, parents of pre-schoolers, boaties and ethnic groups. There’s no reason why – with the help of the whole nation – we can’t lower our toll towards zero.”

So far this year (as at 9 January) there have been three drownings in New Zealand waters.

“Let’s make water safety a major focus for 2013. Too many people are losing their loved ones to drowning in this country.”

To be updated on how to keep safe in and around the water visit www.watersafety.org.nz and read the water safety code.

Other National 2012 Statistics

• 13 people drowned as a result of accidental immersion – that is where they had no intention of entering the water. This is well below the five year average of 27 annually.
• 15 people drowned while swimming – one less than 2011 and on a par with the five year annual average.
• Land based fishing is still a high risk activity with ten people drowning in 2012 – this is one less than 2011 and two above the five year average annual figure.
• All regions – except for Wellington, Taranaki and Southland – had fewer drownings in 2012 compared to the previous year.
• Gisborne, Nelson/Tasman and the Hawke’s Bay were the only three regions where no drownings occurred.
• In 2012, offshore drownings – at 24 deaths – overtook beaches (18 deaths) and rivers (16 deaths) as the main drowning environment.
• Pacific Islanders were the only ethnic group to experience an increase in drownings – 11 compared to nine in 2011.


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