A new campaign, launched today, is calling on all New Zealanders to stop and think about water safety in a bid to reduce New Zealand’s high drowning toll – and the millions of dollars spent on preventable deaths by drowning.
This year to date, 90 people have already lost their lives to drowning – the same number as last year’s total drownings – with the high-risk Christmas holiday season still to come. Of these deaths, almost three quarters (74%) are considered preventable.
New Zealand ranks in the top four worst countries in the OECD for death by drowning. As well as the 90 people who drowned (including 10 over the holiday season), 180 others were hospitalised from a non-fatal drowning. Thirty-five of the hospitalisations were preschoolers.
Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says the new campaign, launched in partnership with ACC, aims to get people thinking about the importance of water safety, with the holiday season about to start.
“It sounds simple, but if we can get New Zealanders to pause and think about how they will keep themselves safe before heading out on or around the water then we’re a large way towards driving a cultural change that makes water safety a priority.”
Mr Claridge says men make up around 80% of the total drowning toll with a particular overrepresentation in boating incidents, while too many preschoolers are losing their lives to drowning. He hopes the stop and think message will take Kiwis closer to reaching the goals of the Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020 – halving the male toll and reducing preschoolers to zero.
Drowning injuries cost ACC around $8 million a year – a large proportion associated with fatal injury claims.
ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering says all Kiwis need to think about their safety and that of family and friends before they swim or go boating.
“Kiwis love the water – especially in summer. Every time we prepare to do water activities, our first priority must be to assess how safe the situation is for us and for others and to take necessary precautions.
“We can’t afford to be casual when it comes to water safety. We need to avoid the serious injuries and fatalities which have devastating consequences to people and families.”