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Delving deeper - Information from Water Safety NZ

Welcome to Delving deeper, Water Safety New Zealand’s new information and statistics newsletter. Research and information is a core part of creating and continuing efficient sector strategy into what is the third highest cause of accidental death New Zealand. We aim to produce this newsletter quarterly, and hope you find the information included valuable. Please pass it on to others whom you think might find it informative.

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Drowning fatalities - as at 25 November 2013

Information Review Group

The water safety sector’s Information Review Group (IRG) met 9 September 2013. The IRG’s primary aim is to:
• Identify, prioritise and address gaps in current data sources and build the current collection of data for the sector’s knowledge base;
• Review DrownBase information making appropriate recommendations on projects and interventions for the sector.
Over the coming months WSNZ will be contacting key organisations on behalf of the IRG to establish a combined sector knowledge repository, sector outcome measures, revise the current Drowning Report and work on enhanced mechanisms to distribute data to the sector. Should you want further detail please contact Alexander Brunt, General Manager on

Doctoral scholarship

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is offering a 3-year PhD scholarship ($25,000 p.a. + negotiable costs) at the University of Otago. The candidate will conduct research that will support the Research Strategy of WSNZ. Applications have now closed and there will be an announcement made shortly.

More information on the PhD scholarship

Recreational boating drowning fatalities

WSNZ has been looking into the issue of lifejackets in recreational boating to find out what focus can be taken to produce the greatest value in saving lives and minimising injuries.

Under current rules, boats must carry enough appropriate lifejackets for the number of people on board. In addition, local councils may have their own bylaws expanding on this rule. For example, in Queenstown, everyone on board a craft smaller than 6m in length must wear a properly secured lifejacket at all times. Many local councils have less than 6m in length as the limit for mandatory lifejacket usage – is this the size that best incorporates the majority of drowning deaths?

Using DrownBase™ data, WSNZ completed an analysis of all recreational boating drowning fatalities for the 20 year period 01/01/1993 to 31/12/2012. For each fatality, the analysis identified gender ethnicity, age group, environment (e.g. river, lake beach, tidal waters, offshore), region, craft size/type and, where possible, whether other conditions (e.g. weather, alcohol or drug consumption) were a possible contributing factor.

A diagram of the summary of research and analysis can be found here – the majority factor in each category is highlighted in red. In the 400 recreational boating fatal drownings over the 20 year period that was analysed, 265 (66%) of the drowning deaths occurred in craft that were less than 4m in length; either non-powered (kayaks, rafts, etc) or powered. In 76% of these cases, a life jacket was not worn.

From this research and analysis, WSNZ has created a discussion paper on the subject of lifejackets that it is currently taking to relevant organisations in the sector. The discussion points are:
• Continue focus on skipper responsibility and education, particularly targeting:
1. NZ European males aged between 15-34 needing to wear lifejackets in craft less than 4m in length offshore and in tidal waters in the northern half of the North Island;
2. Ability to communicate distress following an immersion-type accident;
3. Weather and sea conditions;
4. Fitted level flotation for craft smaller than 4m;
5. Alcohol consumption.
• Advocate for legislation for mandatory wearing of lifejackets for craft smaller than 4m when underway.
• Advocate for industry support for fitted level flotation for craft smaller than 4m.
• Sign the Muskoka Accord (International principles for the wearing of lifejackets on recreational craft).

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