Over-65s most likely to drown in New Zealand - water safety expert

People over 65 years old are the most likely age group to drown in New Zealand, a water safety expert has revealed.

Water Safety NZ CEO Jonty Mills told The AM Show that due to people living longer and wanting to jump back into the water, the drowning statistics for this age group have risen.

"The last three years, interestingly, it's the over-65s that have been the highest category [in drowning statistics]."

Nearly three-quarters of those drownings were people who were on their own.

"There's no one there to help them or no one to call for in a lot of situations," Mills said.

His comments come after eight preventable drownings have occurred in New Zealand since the year began only 21 days ago. The drownings have claimed the lives of all age groups from toddlers to elderly people.

He said drowning isn't one dimensional and it's non-discriminatory.

"The deaths that we've seen so far this year really reflect the complex nature of drowning in this country."

The growing participation in new water activities, including paddle boarding and rock fishing, is also being blamed for drownings.

The myths about life jackets also need to be proven wrong, Mills added.

"I think there's been a bit of a myth with life jackets in terms of the older days - where there used to be that one type and it was that Michelin Man scenario - where it could restrict the activity.

"But life jackets have evolved to the point that there are a lot of different types and varieties for different activities. And they simply save lives."

Mills believes people need to respect the water for what it is, and understand water conditions can change quickly and are unforgiving.