Surf Life Saving New Zealand is advising people to plan ahead when visiting the beach as they prepare to end their patrol season.
Some patrols across Bay of Plenty beaches have come to an end with most of them finishing up after the upcoming Easter weekend.
The recent Beach & Coastal Safety Report released by SLNZ highlighted an alarming rate of fatal drownings in New Zealand, 48 per cent more per capita than in Australia.
There have been 33 fatal drownings in the Bay of Plenty during the 10-year period 2010 to 2020 and the last one-year overview showed three fatal drownings in the region, matching the annual average.
It is a number that is too high in the opinion of SLNZ lifesaving manager for Eastern Region Chaz Gibbons-Campbell.
He highlights specific concerns such as the disproportionately high rate of males involved in fatal drowning incidents and an overall poor national average.
“Most of our beaches are finishing up or have finished with the last patrol weekend Easter,” says Chaz. “But obviously it is still quite warm out there and we are still seeing a lot of people visiting even the beaches that have finished there are still people out there booking bachs and stuff like that.”
Chaz is telling beachgoers who are set to attend unpatrolled beaches in the remaining warm weather post-Easter to be prepared.
“Our message is to plan ahead. Check the weather, the surf forecast, check to see if there is a patrol operating on the beach and make a bit of a plan with your family or friends so that you know what you are going to do and who is going to be there. Make sure you have got all the right kit for any watersports and obviously make sure somebody is with you.”
Ideally, Chaz hopes these are protocols swimmers, surfers and boaties already follow.
If you do see someone in trouble, dialling 111 and asking for the police is the advice given.
“We will still have our callout squads operational throughout the season so if we do need to call anyone out there is that capability to get some lifeguards out there.”
Chaz admits that in the BOP we have an ‘awesome playground’ in our backyard but that the waters can be unpredictable. If someone is unsure about whether the water is safe, he has a simple message.
“If in doubt, stay out.
“People really need to assess the risks and their ability and if there is any doubt there then stay out or go to a safer location.”