Drowning deaths over holiday period climb to unprecedented 14

Source: 1News

Fourteen people died in “preventable drownings” over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Manawatū River

The preliminary figures from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) are up from five in the 2020 to 2021 period.

WSNZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard said the figure represented “a horrific loss of lives”.

“It cuts through every age range, water activity and ethnicity. A common theme in these drownings was people underestimating the conditions and overestimating their ability.”

Gerrard urged people to make wise decisions around the water as the summer season continued.

This included taking a buddy, swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches, watching out for rips, wearing lifejackets on boats and while fishing from rocks, and supervising children in the water.

“We know Kiwis will continue to enjoy our beautiful waterways as the warm weather continues. We all need to take responsibility and think about water safety,” he said.

All but one of the drowning fatalities were in the North Island.

During the holiday period, there were four drowning deaths in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, all in the Manawatū River. The deaths included two refugees from Myanmar and two men.

There were a further three drowning fatalities each in Waikato and Auckland.

River drownings, of which there were six, accounted for 43 per cent of the drowning deaths this holiday period. The five-year average for the holiday period is one death.

There were four beach drownings - double the five-year average for the holiday period.

The official Christmas and New Year holiday period ran from 4pm on December 24, 2021 and ended at 6am January 5.