Drownings down in Wellington region

JO MOIR
Last updated 12:34 08/01/2014

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The number of Wellington drownings has reduced in the last year in line with the national toll that has reached a record low.

Five people drowned in the region in 2013 - six per cent of the national total of 81 drownings.

The number is down from nine in 2012 with all five deaths affecting people aged over 25-years-old - a buck in the national trend that has alarm bells ringing over the number of pre-schoolers dying in New Zealand waters.

Five pre-schoolers drowned last year - up 67 per cent on 2012.

Six young people aged 5 to 14-years-old drowned, matching the same number as 2012 and doubling the five year average of three.

Last year's total drownings were down from 98 in 2012 and the lowest number since records began in 1980.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said although the number is "heading in the right direction,'' the increase in pre-school drownings and the 5 to 14-year-old toll remaining the same as last year was worrying.

"Overall, it's great that the toll is tracking down but eighty-one deaths is still a huge number ranking us amongst the worst in the developed world. And no pre-schoolers should be drowning in this country.

"Kids under five should be within arms reach of a parent or caregiver at all times in, on and around water,'' he said.

Men are also a big contributor to drownings making them a priority area for New Zealand's water safety sector.

Seventy-seven per cent of last year's drownings were men and organisations like Maritime New Zealand, Coastguard and Surf Lifesaving New Zealand were doing a lot of work around changing Kiwi blokes behaviour in the water.

"We need to halve the number of men drowning and reduce the pre-school toll to zero in the short term.

"There's no room for complacency when it comes to water safety,'' he said.

For every drowning in New Zealand, on average another 1.8 people are hospitalised due to near drownings.

As of today there have been four drownings so far this year.

OTHER STATISTICS

- 20, or just under a quarter of drownings occurred while taking part in watersports. 16 were while swimming.

- Powered boat deaths dropped from 18 in 2012 to eight last year.

- Gisborne and Tasman were the only regions where no drownings occurred last year.

- Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Otago were the five regions that had an increase in drownings. Northland jumped from six to 11 last year while Otago increased from two in 2012 to six in 2013.

- The greatest number of drownings in 2013 occurred at beaches where 19 people died followed by 18 at rivers and 11 offshore.

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- The Dominion Post

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