Editorial: Let's aim for zero

21:06, Dec 25 2012

The summer holiday season has started badly on the water.

While two divers were airlifted out of the Marlborough Sounds at the weekend, their conditions are stable and their injuries relatively minor. One had a twisted leg and the other was suspected of having the bends.

Incidents are inevitable when we flock to the water and happily the emergency services got help to these two men.

A situation on Lake Te Anau at the weekend had quite a different ending, adding another tragic story to our woeful drowning toll.

A 22-year-old man - an Italian who had been working in Te Anau for just three weeks - had climbed into a wooden canoe older than himself and paddled across the lake. He never came back and his body was found floating near the dilapidated canoe.

Comments from police suggest this was a tragedy in the making from the moment the young man set out. The canoe was not suitable for the conditions, he was poorly equipped with safety gear and he went on his own.


His family and friends will be spending what should be the happiest time of the year grieving for a life cut short. And how many times have we heard that? Too often.

While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, it appears to be the 87th drowning in the country this year. Statistical averages suggest 10 more will be added to that toll before the end of the official holiday period on January 3, including four fishermen.

We are a country that takes to the water during our holidays - the sea that surrounds us, the lakes dotted throughout the landscape, the rivers and streams in between. We boat, we swim, surf, we paddle and we fish. People involved in all those activities are represented among the drowning statistics.

Water Safety New Zealand would like us to aim for a zero toll these holidays, and we should celebrate like mad if we make it.

The best way to start is to be prepared: wear life jackets, keep kids within arm's reach, know our limits, check the weather and don't drink until we're off the water. None of this is difficult.

Marlborough has more than its share of water. Let's enjoy it, not die in it.

The Marlborough Express