Spike in food gathering fatalities

A spike in underwater, rock fishing and boating incidents has seen New Zealand’s provisional preventable drowning toll increase to almost the five year average after a drop in 2018.

There were 78 preventable drowning fatalities last year, increasing 18 per cent compared to the 66 fatalities in 2018.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills says the toll reflects the complex nature of drowning in NZ.

“Drowning is not one dimensional. The numbers represent a wide range of age, ethnicities, activities and water environments.” says Jonty.

Of note are significant increases in land based fishing fatalities (12 up from 6 in 2018) and underwater diving (11 up from 5 in 2018).

Powered Boat fatalities have spiked with 11 deaths, which is just above the 2014 – 2018 five year average of 10.

Jonty says the satisfaction that comes from catching food from the water is not worth losing your life over.

“Obviously there’s a recreation and cultural aspect but sometimes there is pressure to put food on the table, resulting in unnecessary risk taking. It’s so important fishers and divers follow the best water safety practice so they come home to their families.”

Best practice means rock fishers, net fishers and shell fishers wearing lifejackets.

In over a third of the 12 powered boating fatalities last year, lifejackets were not available or not worn correctly.

Jonty says people who have had a break from diving should get a health check from a doctor before getting back in the water.

Assessing conditions, having some form of waterproof communication, and having someone with you is also important.

It has also been a tragic year for under-fives, with seven preventable drowning fatalities compared to three in 2018.

“The key message for under-five water safety is constant active adult supervision and to avoid distraction. We urge people to assess potential water hazards around their home, and take appropriate action.”

Preventable fatalities in the 55-64 year age group have doubled, increasing from six to 12.

Non-fatal drowning statistics have not yet be analysed and will be available after March this year, and included in the final 2019 drowning report.

Read the 2019 Provisional Drowning Report, here: https://infogram.com/2019-provisional-drowning-report-1hdw2jd7ev0o2l0?live.

Drowning data is sourced from Water Safety NZ.


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