Today Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) released the 2016 annual drowning toll figures, which highlighted a dramatic rise in river drowning deaths.
There were 81 preventable drowning deaths, a slight decrease from 86 in 2015 but the same as the five-year average.
River deaths topped the table. After a record low of 10 river drowning deaths in 2012 there were 24 in 2016, 60% higher than the five-year average.
WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says, “Rivers are very changeable, currents can be deceptive and objects can move and shift under the surface. We will work closely with local authorities to tackle this growing problem.”
Drowning remains largely a male issue with men making up 85% of all drowning deaths. “Men continue to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the risk when it comes to water,” says Mills. “The macho kiwi attitude that still seems to exist when men partake in water based activities continues to be a deadly one.”
The Northland and Waikato regions combined made up 42% of the total preventable drownings in 2016, with Waikato experiencing a 55% increase on their five year average and over half of their drowning deaths occurring in Rivers in 2016.
Jonty Mills says a program through Hamilton City Council is already underway to educate young teens in the Waikato around river safety in this known local risk environment.