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What are the Chances of Drowning this Holiday?

What are the Chances of Drowning this Holiday Period?

As we head into the holiday period, the New Zealand Drowning toll for 2006 is at a record low. Slow and steady reductions have been achieved in most categories of activity, site and age for the past decade and more. But with the summer holidays about to get under way, we know that along with increased time in the sun and time spent cooling off in the water that the holidays have the potential to deliver a surge in drowning numbers.

Spokesperson for Water Safety New Zealand, Matt Claridge said that over the past 10 years, on average 11 people have drowned during the official holiday period. This years holiday period runs from 4pm Friday the 22rd December until 6am on 3th January.

The predictability of these figures is alarming. Over the last five years an average of 28 New Zealanders have drowned across the period Christmas Eve – till the end of January. A rate of almost one per day, and in relative terms, the likelihood of drowning increases by four times over the summer holidays, for preschoolers the increase is even greater at 6 times.

There are two age categories of concern; males aged 15-40 with incidents predominantly occurring while swimming at beaches and rivers or when fishing, either land based or from a boat. The consistent theme with these incidents is poor decision making or simply being unprepared for the activity. The second category of concern is the unsupervised child aged under 5 who ends up in the water.

Matt Claridge notes, “every year we see the same mistakes being made. No matter how predictable, we still count the cost of some questionable decisions and feel the sorrow of losing a disproportionate number of preschoolers.”

New Zealand is unique, when compared to other developed countries, with our ease of access to the water in practically any form, be it river, beach, lake or pool. We naturally associate the summer season with our geographical treasures and with that come the seasonal fatalities.

Matt Claridge continues “the kiwi male tends to cut loose a bit when they get away from work or university with friends. It is in our nature to be number one and to be daring amongst peers. In turn, it only takes one responsible person to assess a situation and be a determining factor as to whether a fun idea turns into a deadly mistake or not.”

The key water safety messages prevailing this summer will be, to never swim or fish alone, check for hidden objects at the river or lake, and to make sure that you always supervise children near water, always!

With children spending school holidays at home or with relatives, make sure that if an inflatable pool or the like is on the list of presents then caregivers should supervise water play time with an uncompromising passion and be certain to deflate and store the pool when not in use.

Matt Claridge adds “if you are heading to the holiday house or somewhere different this summer, take time to have a look around and check for potential hazards, it may be a bucket or pond that can easily be removed or have access restricted. In any case, be aware and do something.”

Water Safety New Zealand drowning information is available from and remember, “If in doubt, stay out” because the number of drownings over the holiday period is a national tragedy.”


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