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2004 Drownings Continue Low Trend

7 January 2005

2004 Drownings Continue Low Trend

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) today released the provisional drowning figure for 2004, stating that 110 people drowned in New Zealand, the lowest toll (provisionally) since records began in 1980.

WSNZ Executive Director, Alan Muir said that the continuing reduction in drownings was most pleasing. "The continuing reduction in drownings can in part be attributed to the publics acceptance of a need for greater risk assessment to be made before being involved in aquatic activities and also their uptake to the various water safety messages and education programmes now available to them".

The overall reductions since the 1980's illustrates the progress being made to reduce the annual drowning toll. 1980's Average 181 1990's " 143 2000's " 123

Traditionally drownings occur in two major categories recreational and non-recreational (when the victim had no intent on being in the water for recreational purposes).

Key points from the recreational category include: * No drownings in the under 4m powered crafts, the first time this has occurred in what has been historically the most at risk boating activity. * The increase in kayaking incidents leading to six drownings. * The significant drowning reduction in the underwater activities of scuba diving and snorkelling.

Significant points from the non-recreational category are: * Lowest toll from immersion accidents. Total of 18 compared to the previous low of 24 in 1995. * The overall reduction in this category being maintained. Until 2003 non-recreational was always higher than the drownings in recreational activities. * The reduction in the under five age group drowning from an average of 12 over the past 10 years to four in 2004.

>From a site specific point of view, our inland waterways (rivers, creeks and streams) are most dangerous, accounting for 40 drownings, of which 14 were due to road vehicle accidents. A further six drowned in lakes. Typically, approximately one third of all drownings occur in rivers.

While pleased that the drowning toll is continuing to reduce Mr Muir said "much more can be achieved in the area of water based recreation, in particular, land based fishing, non powered boats and swimming activities at all sites such as the beach, rivers, lakes or in pools. While we continue to target these areas to hopefully drive the drowning toll downwards further we must also continue to ensure the gains made are maintain, not always an easy task".

Muir continues, "while the weather this summer has not been conducive to water based activities, January is traditionally the month when most drownings occur. Sooner or later it can be expected that the weather will improve and this will attract people to get out and enjoy the aquatic environment. It is therefore important that while people wish to enjoy what is left of the summer that they do so through matching their skills, knowledge and behaviour to the environment they wish to enjoy".

ENDS

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