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Record Low Drowning Toll But Children’s Deaths Concern

Record Low Drowning Toll But Children’s Deaths Concern

Eighty-one people drowned in New Zealand waters in 2013 – down from 98 in 2012 and the lowest number since records began in 1980.

But while the overall decrease is promising, five pre-schoolers drowned last year – up 67% on 2012. And the number of 5-14 year olds that drowned – at six – is double the five-year average (three) and equal to 2012.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO, Matt Claridge, says it’s reassuring that the toll is heading in the right direction, but an increase in the number of pre-schoolers drowning – and no drop in the 5-14 year old toll – is of concern.

“Overall, it’s great that the toll is tracking down but eighty-one deaths is still a huge number ranking us amongst the worst in the developed world. And no pre-schoolers should be drowning in this country. Kids under five should be within arms reach of a parent or caregiver at all times in, on, and around water.

“Initiatives such as Sealord Swim for Life and the Plunket bath mat campaign have never been more important. If we are to achieve a cultural change in behaviour around water, it’s crucial that we up-skill Kiwi kids with swim to survive skills at school age, and later through Day Skipper and other initiatives.”

Matt Claridge says for every drowning, another 1.8 people (on average) are hospitalised due to near or non-fatal drownings.

“This is of huge concern and comes at considerable social and economic cost to the community long-term.”

Men – at 62 or 77% of 2013’s drownings – continue to be over represented in the drowning toll.

Kiwi blokes are a priority area for New Zealand’s water safety sector and a huge amount of work is being done by organisations such as Maritime New Zealand, Coastguard and Surf Lifesaving New Zealand to change behaviour in, on and around water, says Matt Claridge.

Mr Claridge says Water Safety New Zealand will continue to lead the sector towards reducing the drowning toll further in 2014 by targeting priority groups such as men, the parents of under 5s, and recreational beach and river users.

“We need to halve the number of men drowning and reduce the pre-school toll to zero – but all New Zealanders need to play a role in achieving this.

“There’s no room for complacency when it comes to water safety. I’m sure all New Zealanders would agree that eighty-one deaths is eighty-one too many.”

As at 8 January 2014 there have been four drownings in New Zealand so far this year.

Other National 2013 Statistics

• 20 – or just under a quarter of drownings – occurred while the victims were taking part in watersports. 16 of these deaths occurred while swimming.
• The number of land-based fishing drownings were consistent with the five year average at eight deaths.
• Powered boat deaths at eight, were down significantly on the 2012 total of 18.
• Gisborne and Tasman were the only regions where no drownings occurred in 2013.
• Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, Northland, Bay Of Plenty and Otago were the five regions that had an increase in drownings in 2013. Otago had the greatest percentage increase, up 200% from two in 2012 to six in 2013. Northland had the greatest amount increase, up 83% from six in 2012 to 11 in 2013.
• In 2013, the greatest number of drownings occurred at beaches (19), followed by rivers (18) and offshore (11).


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