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Drowning Prevention Strategy A Good Start

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Drowning Prevention Strategy A Good Start

The Drowning Prevention Strategy is a “good start” to reducing New Zealand’s horrific drowning toll, the head of Water Safety New Zealand said today.

Yesterday the Minister for ACC released the strategy, hailing it as a “landmark”. Alan Muir, Executive Director of Water Safety New Zealand, says on average 130 people drown in New Zealand every year – a toll that has massive social and economic implications for the country.

“New Zealanders are at an unbelievable risk of drowning – the frightening thing is that drowning can take anyone at any moment. In the last six months over a half of those who drowned didn’t intend to be in the water,” Alan Muir said.

“We seem to have a very blasé attitude to the dangers of water in this country, probably because we all grow up with water close by. Adults especially seem to see water as very safe.”

“If you asked the average parent to choose the safer scenario between leaving an infant or toddler unsupervised in a bath, or in a room with a strange dog, most would choose the bath. Sobering when you consider that so far this year eight young children have drowned in the home in baths, buckets, or pools. Comparatively, very few children are killed by dogs.”

Mr Muir said he is satisfied by the government’s approach to the issue of water safety through the Drowning Prevention Strategy, but says New Zealanders must take more responsibility for their own actions.

“So many drownings each year are unnecessary and preventable. It only takes a moment: whether you turn your back on the sea, in a river, or walk away from a bath to answer the phone. It takes just minutes to drown, and it causes a lifetime of regret and sadness for so many people.”

New Zealand has the highest rate of youth drowning (ages 1-14) compared to other OECD nations. According to a recent report released by the Child Youth and Mortality Review Committee, the highest rates of drowning were in the 1-4 year age group, at 6.9 per 100,000. A number of these little New Zealanders tragically lose their lives in pools, baths, and buckets.

“Drowning is a miserable, sad, and lonely way to die,” says Alan Muir, “It is hardly ever gory or sensational. Perhaps this is the greatest tragedy of all because, although it is one of the leading causes of accidental death in New Zealand, drowning receives a fraction of the attention road accidents do.”

Further information and updated statistics on drowning are available at:

The latest report from CYMRC (Min. of Health) can be found here:


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