New wave of boaties urged to lead on safety

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012

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Southland boaties are being asked to take care on the water this Christmas, with Water Safety New Zealand calling for a zero drowning toll during the holiday period.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said the official Christmas holiday week - when people flocked to rivers, lakes and beaches throughout the country - was historically a high-risk time.

During the past five years, 10 people on average have drowned in New Zealand waters in the festive holiday period, which runs from 4pm Christmas Eve until 6am January 3.

Last year, nine people lost their lives in the water during this time, Mr Claridge said.

"A greater number of people taking part in water-based activity results in higher risk and more incidents but, if everyone makes safety a priority and remembers the basics - wear lifejackets, keep kids within arm's reach, know your limits and don't drink alcohol when taking part in water-based activity - then a zero toll is achievable."

Environment Southland harbourmaster Kevin O'Sullivan said with a warm Christmas period predicted, boaties would be out in force on the region's waterways.

Boating was a big part of many Southlanders' lives and it was important to continue enforcing the safety message, he said.

Mr O'Sullivan said that, after a recent boating safety campaign in schools throughout Southland, the council was hoping the younger generation of boaties would be leading the way for a safe summer on the water.

Boaties should be especially responsible with alcohol and boats.

"The message we are pushing is don't drink at all if you are in charge of a boat," he said.

Environment Southland officers would be at boat ramps throughout the Christmas period and summer.

"We will be maintaining a presence at ramps across the region," Mr O'Sullivan said.

The focus would be on ensuring all boats had identification markings, he said.

"Identifying your boat was compulsory under council bylaw. The bylaw made boats more easily identifiable in an emergency or for law enforcement."

Mr O'Sullivan said he expected some of the busiest ramps would be in Te Anau, Manapouri and Bluff.

STAYING ALIVE

86 people have drowned in New Zealand waters so far this year. Top tips to survive:

Wear lifejackets

Keep children within arm's reach

Know your limits

Don't drink alcohol during water-based activity

Source: Water Safety New Zealand

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