Drowning toll lowest in six years

22:09, Jan 02 2013

The three drownings during the Christmas holiday period was the lowest toll in six years, but Water Safety New Zealand says it could have been much higher given the number of close calls.

The toll for the period from 4pm on Christmas Eve to 6am today was the lowest since 2006-2007, and compared with an average of 10 during the past five Christmas periods.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said the number of rescues indicated the toll could have been much higher.

"There have been a significant number of extremely close calls and if it wasn't for others putting themselves at risk - including surf lifeguards around the country - the number of deaths would have been far higher," Claridge said.

The deaths this Christmas period comprised one while diving, one while rafting, and one when someone entered the surf to help a family member in distress.

Claridge said that with almost a month to go until the end of the school holidays, all holidaymakers needed to make water safety a priority.

"It doesn't matter what you're doing - whether fishing, swimming, boating or just relaxing beside the water - the water safety basics are the same," he said.

"Watch the weather, keep kids within arm's reach, know your limits, don't drink alcohol if you're going out on or in the water, and use the right safety equipment."