2014 Provisional Drowning Toll at 90 Deaths

Ninety people – mostly men and including eight pre-school children – drowned in New Zealand in 2014.

The number is down from 2013’s final total of 107, but may rise as coronial reports are received.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says while the total numbers have consistently tracked downwards over recent years, New Zealand is still ranked amongst the three worst countries for drowning in the developed world.

“Disappointingly, adult men continue their terrible track record making up more than 76% of all drownings.”

Rivers were the biggest killer with 20 of the 90 deaths occurring in this environment.

Matt Claridge says it’s hugely significant that beach drownings are down 50% on last year and the five-year average, at eleven deaths. “This is a reflection of the great work being done by organisations such as Surf Lifesaving New Zealand and hopefully, an indication that the safety messages are getting through.”

Inland still waters (with 18 deaths), offshore (16) and tidal waters (14) were where the bulk of the remaining drownings occurred.

One third of the drownings – 30 deaths – were ‘immersion incidents’, where people had no intention of entering the water. Matt Claridge says this highlights the need for people to learn swim and survival skills, and to make water safety a consideration.

“For example a family walking around rocks at the beach should take the time to ask themselves: are the conditions suitable? Do we have the skills to manage this if something does go wrong?”

Eleven of 2014’s drownings occurred while the victims were swimming, ten while boating (motorised) and sixteen are attributed to ‘other activities’ (road vehicle incidents, suicide etc). Five people drowned while land based fishing, and non-powered boating and water sports (such as boogie boarding or jumping into water) claimed an additional four lives each.

Just two regions – Marlborough and Taranaki – had zero drownings, while Gisborne, Southland, Tasman, Waikato and Wellington are all up on 2013.

Of the eight pre-school deaths Mr Claridge says the ongoing increase in the numbers in this age group drowning is a huge issue that requires more work, more education and more attention.

“I’ve said this a thousand times, no pre-schooler should be drowning and we won’t be happy until this is achieved. The one small positive in this area, is that for the first time in six years no under fives drowned in Northland.”

“If New Zealand’s terrible drowning toll is to come down it requires a huge change in culture and behaviour. The water safety sector is working together to drive this change but communities, whanau and individuals all need to step up and say let’s improve on our poor track record and stop the drownings once and for all.”

Other Facts and Figures

  • Auckland – 36% of drownings were related to motorised boats.
  • Hawke’s Bay – 83% of victims were aged over 45.
  • Manawatu – all victims were aged under 25.
  • Manawatu, Wanganui, Gisborne, Tasman and Canterbury – all were adult male drownings.
  • Otago – the only region with more females than males drowning.
  • Southland – includes three Germans missing, presumed drowned from a yacht.
  • Waikato – over a third (36%) of victims were aged 15-24.
  • Highest toll for Asian fatalities since 2011 at 10 deaths.

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