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Call for zero drowning toll

Christmas a high-risk time

Last updated 15:05 23/12/2012
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BE WATERWISE: The official Christmas holiday week is historically a high-risk time.

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Water Safety New Zealand is calling for a zero drowning toll this Christmas Holiday period.

On average ten people drown in New Zealand waters each official Christmas holiday period - which this year goes from 4pm Christmas Eve until 6am 3 January 2013. Last year, nine people lost their lives in the water during this time.

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Matt Claridge said the official Christmas holiday week - when people flock to rivers, lakes and beaches around the country - is historically a high-risk time.

"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 life jackets, 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."

Fishermen were over-represented in 2011's Christmas holiday toll with four men drowning while fishing and Claridge said this should be a reminder to others.

"It doesn't matter whether you're fly fishing in rivers, casting off rocks, or out in a boat, the safety requirements are the same. Take a mate, check the marine weather forecast and always wear a life jacket."

Claridge said 86 people have drowned in our waters so far this year, and while the number is down on the same time last year, it's still too high.

"New Zealand has one of the worst drowning tolls in the developed world. This is a nationwide problem that everyone needs to play a part in solving. If everyone is prepared, knows their limits and keeps an eye on their friends and family in and around the water, we can reverse the trend."

Claridge said he hopes to be announcing a zero drowning toll come 3 January but for that to happen, he needs the help of all New Zealanders.

Christchurch 16-year-old Tominiko Junior Pelenato, drowned eight days ago while swimming in the lake at the PegasusTown development in North Canterbury.

Dougal Holmes, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand's southern region programmes and services manager, said life savers will be patrolling at Pegasus Bay for the first time this summer, from tomorrow (December 24) to January 17. 

It would also patrol Woodend and Pines Beach from late December to late January in response to population growth north of the city.

According to Water Safety New Zealand data, there were 57 drowning deaths in the Canterbury region from 2007 to 2011. Ten of these drowning fatalities occurred at the beach.

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- The Press

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