Water Safety Sector Announces New Targets

Water safety organisations have joined together to develop a collaborative plan to address New Zealand’s high drowning toll – setting ambitious new targets in the process.

The Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020, put together by key water safety agencies and launched this afternoon, aims to halve preventable male drownings and bring the number of preschoolers drowning down to zero in the next five years.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge says the new strategy will see the entire sector – some 40 organisations – work collaboratively to have a greater impact on the drowning toll.

“The sector will work together to deliver new and innovative programmes, engage in research, set the policy agenda and resource drowning prevention initiatives according to what will have the greatest impact.”

Mr Claridge says drowning and water related injuries are not seen by New Zealanders as a major issue and one of the key areas of work will be driving attitudinal and behavioural change.

On average 103 people drown in New Zealand waters each year, with up to 80 of these deaths preventable. Males are four times more likely to drown than women in New Zealand at 84% of drownings. This is twice the global average.

“In particular we’ll be working to address the big issue of men over estimating their abilities and underestimating the conditions.”

The targets set are ambitious, but achievable. And the sector is prepared to be held accountable, says Mr Claridge.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton agrees the plan is ambitious, but hopes its collaborative nature will help the public realise just how serious New Zealand’s drowning toll is.

“There were far too many drownings on unpatrolled beaches last year and if we can help people to change their ‘she’ll be right’ attitude towards surf safety, so they don’t underestimate the risks and overestimate their own abilities, then we will be on our way to helping reach the plan’s targets,” he says.

Water Safety Sector Strategy Targets by 2020

  • Preventable* drowning deaths are reduced from 77 to 50 or less (-35%).
  • Drowning hospitalisations are reduced from 172 to 100 or less (-42%).
  • Male drowning deaths are halved from 66 to 33 or less.
  • Preschool drowning deaths are reduced from six to zero.

* Preventable drownings are defined as all drowning deaths other than those that result from suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents. Statistics are expressed as a five-year average.

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