Men and preschoolers are over-represented in New Zealand's
drowning toll, Water Safety NZ warns.
There were 81 drownings last year, a record low, but chief
executive said an increase in the number of preschoolers who
died was of particular concern.
"It's great that the toll is tracking down, but 81 deaths is
still a huge number ranking us among the worst in the
developed world," he said.
Five preschoolers drowned last year, up from the year before.
In June, 2-year-old Charlie Aaron Unwin drowned in a rubbish
hole after he wandered from a house near Gore.
The hole, which was not fenced off, was a short distance from
the house and had filled with water from recent rain.
Two months later, 2-year-old Violet Elisabeth Waples drowned
after wandering off from her family home in Queenstown.
She was found 100m away floating face down in Lake Wakatipu.
"No preschoolers should be drowning in this country," Mr
"Kids under 5 should be within arms' reach of a parent or
caregiver at all times in, on, and around water."
To achieve a key change in their behaviour around water, it
was crucial New Zealand children were taught swimming
survival skills at school age, Mr Claridge said.
The water safety school programme coordinator at Mt Eden Swim
Magic in Auckland said an additional benefit for parents
teaching their under 5s how to swim, was that they learned
how to supervise their children at the same time.
"They're going to learn to be aware of the risk."
Unfortunately, some Pacific Island families did not not see
swimming lessons as a priority, Ms Richardson said.
"I'm a Pacific Islander and we're an at-risk people group.
"Money is an issue for them, they don't consider swimming
lessons as [essential], it's recreation, that's how they view
it. Therefore the money is not going to be invested into
Mr Claridge said for every drowning, another 1.8 people on
average needed hospital treatment due to near or non-fatal
"This is of huge concern and comes at considerable social and
economic cost to the community long-term."
At 77 per cent of 2013s drownings, men continued to be
over-represented in the toll, Mr Claridge said.
Five men drowned, four while fishing or gathering seafood,
during the official Christmas holiday period.
Two of the men drowned while fishing off rocks at Maunganui
Bluff near Dargaville, a third when scuba diving at Motiti
Island and the fourth while fishing off the wharf at Kauri
Point. The fifth drowning occurred in a home bath.
* 20 drownings occurred while the victims were taking part in
watersports, 16 while swimming
* At eight deaths, the number of land-based fishing drownings
was consistent with the five-year average
* Powerboat deaths, at eight, were significantly down on the
2012 total of 18
* Gisborne and Tasman were the only regions with no drownings
* Hawkes Bay, Marlborough, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Otago
all suffered an increase in drownings in 2013
* The greatest number of drownings occurred at beaches (19),
followed by rivers (18) and offshore (11)
Source: Water Safety New Zealand