Three people drowned in New Zealand waters this official
Christmas holiday period - between 4pm Christmas Eve and 6am
And while this is the lowest number of drownings for the
Christmas holiday period since 2006-2007, Water Safety New
Zealand says it's still three deaths too many.
"We had hoped to be announcing a zero holiday period toll
today and it's incredibly sad that instead we're talking
about three people that have lost their lives in the water,"
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said.
"It's an absolute tragedy that three families will begin 2013
without a loved one."
Two of the deaths occurred while the victims were
participating in water-based recreational activities.
Oscar-winning sound editor Michael Alexander Hopkins drowned
on Sunday in Wairarapa's Waiohine River when a wave of water
hit the raft he was in, with his wife and another man.
And a man in his 20s died while he was diving in Whangaparaoa
on Saturday. A group of five were diving at Matakatia Bay
when one of the group failed to surface.
The third death occurred when 42-year-old Whakatane woman
Lita Tarau entered the surf to help her son who was in
Mr Claridge says while it's positive to see the number of
deaths down on previous years - there have been on average
ten drownings each Christmas during the past five years - the
number of rescues indicate the toll could have been much
Two 12-year-old cousins were hailed as heroes when they saved
a man from drowning after he was swept out to sea by a rip at
Bowentown Beach in the Bay of Plenty on Saturday.
Will White and Sergio Schuler are expected to meet the man
they saved, a 32-year-old Aucklander who identified himself
as Vincent, this week in Waihi.
"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 and others
like Will and Sergio at Waihi - the number of deaths would
have been far higher," Mr Claridge said.
He said with almost a month to go until the end of the school
holidays, all holidaymakers need to make water safety a
"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.
"Watch the weather, keep kids within arms reach, know your
limits, don't drink alcohol if you're going out on or in the
water and use the right safety equipment."
Parents returning to work also need to ensure that children
likely to be spending time at swimming spots are well
equipped to keep themselves safe.
Mr Claridge says if anyone needs reminding about how to keep
safe in and around the water they should visit www.watersafety.org.nz and
familiarise themselves with the water safety code.
"New Zealand has one of the highest drowning rates in the
developed world - third only to Finland and Brazil - and this
must change," he said.
"To reduce our shocking drowning toll we need all New
Zealanders to learn to swim and survive and to take the
necessary precautions when in and around the water. Only then
will lives be saved."