Three rock fishers were rescued at Muriwai on Sunday. Unlike the two boaties rescued from the Manukau Harbour, also on Sunday, these men were all wearing lifejackets. Two of the injured fishers were choppered to hospital, the third managed to make it to shore. It is good news that they were all successfully rescued but the outcome could have easily been very different and provides a timely reminder that people need to be water competent to really enjoy our beautiful Kiwi waters safely.  

We’d like to take this opportunity to advise you of the imminent publication of the latest evaluation and report on the West Coast Rock Fisher Safety Project, authored and produced by Dr Kevin Moran. Kevin has been instrumental to WAI’s approach for 20 years and his research is widely recognised as contributing to a better water safety consciousness, both here and overseas. WaterSafe Auckland, Surf Life Saving New Zealand and Auckland Council work together to implement the West Coast Rock Fishing Safety Project, in place since five lives were lost in 2005.

Dr Moran says that “while recent evidence indicates continued positive changes in fisher safety behaviours over the past nine years since the [Rock] Fishing Safety project was initiated in 2006, this weekend’s incident is a timely reminder of the need for lifejacket use by fishers in high risk locations. In remote settings, lifejackets provide flotation and buy time for rescuers to get to the scene. The recently completed West Coast Fisher Safety Report found that while a third of fishers often wear lifejackets when fishing, a similar proportion never wear one and it is these fishers that at greatest risk of drowning. The latest incident is clear testimony of the need for continued education and safety promotion.”

Dr Moran is a member of the WHO Advisory Committee that helped prepare and review the Global Drowning Report, just released by the World Health Organisation (WHO); it’s findings are shocking. The worldwide loss of life to drowning is estimated to be in excess of 372,000 each year, that’s more than 1,000 people every day, or 40+ every hour. This is both disturbing and unacceptable.  More than 90% of these losses happen in low and middle income countries. The WHO data is excellent, however the picture is still incomplete.

WAI welcomes the Report for putting the issue [that continues to go largely unnoticed] firmly on the agenda, and with the rest of the aquatic sector supports its recommendations for improved data, national water safety strategies, tailored programmes and global partnerships. We look forward to working with New Zealand’s wet sector and Water Safety New Zealand who hold the very good DrownBase data so that  we can gain an even greater understanding of the New Zealand situation.  The recording of accurate data is vital.

Drowning is something that, with every New Zealander’s participation, we can significantly reduce here in Aotearoa.  The tragedy of the situation is that whilst drowning is a multi-faceted phenomenon it is largely preventable and its prevention relatively simple and inexpensive. We believe that, as a minimum standard, every nation should have a national drowning prevention strategy, underpinned by a range of practical, effective programmes and interventions. Together we can have a collective impact on drowning that significantly improves the situation here in New Zealand if we can get everyone on board.

Watch the video produced by WHO and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, to support the Report’s release.