National | Awa

Staying safe in NZ's waters over summer

Despite the recent wet weather, summer is here, meaning the busy season begins for surf lifesavers.

Lifesaving support Officer Ollie Irwin is reminding everyone to take care and stay safe around the country's waterways, especially out on beaches with lifeguards on duty - no matter how many times the same messages have to be said.

"You can't really say enough about the messages because the same things are happening. No matter how many times you say you're swimming between the flags, you're telling the same people.

Stay safe in the water for you and your whānau's sake.

"A lot of people don't like to listen to the lifeguards, and it's about how we approach people. You can't just say 'swim between the flags', you need to say 'it's a good idea to swim between the flags' because it's where we put a 100 per cent focus on."

Despite being 15.5 per cent of the country's total population, Māori made up 31 per cent of drowning deaths in 2021.

"We're way over-represented in that," Irwin says, "I think it's the education and knowledge around what the ocean and coastlines are capable of. There seems to be a lot of complacency around that."

Irwin says more education about water is needed, especially in fresh waterways such as rivers.

With boating also a big summer staple, Irwin is re-emphasising the importance of safety, such as wearing life jackets and others, no matter what vessel people are on.

"There's been too many instances lately where people have been found or rescued without the right PPE (personal protection equipment), without carrying a radio or a phone.

"If you don't have a means of communication, then pretty much your luck is going to run out."

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