Drowning deaths in 2022 a 'national disaster' as number reaches 14-year high - Water Safety NZ

Drowning deaths in 2022 a 'national disaster' as number reaches 14-year high - Water Safety NZ
Photo credit: Newshub.

Men are not setting a good example when it comes to safety around water, Water Safety NZ says.

It comes as advocates urge for caution in the water, with the number of drownings reaching a 14-year high.

Provisional numbers show 93 people drowned in New Zealand water during 2022.

Nine people drowned during the official holiday period, down from 16 the year before.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard told Morning Report the provisional number of 93 drownings was "national disaster".

"This is the worst since 2008 and it just doesn't seem to be getting any better," he said.

It was difficult to say if the number would reach 100 following coroner findings, but a "large number" of unknown deaths were classified as drownings in 2021, he added.

If the number did reach 100, it would "well and truly be the worst year of the century".

Gerrard said Water Safety NZ's data team was working to get an idea of why the numbers were so high for 2022 - but there was a common theme around the people getting themselves into dangerous situations in water.

The most clear of all was that the most were men.

"We are not doing a particularly good job as fathers, sons, brothers and uncles to set very good role-modelling positions.

"We are just making really, really bad choices."

Gerrard said the group of over 40s drowning was consistent with previous years - but the over 55s was where spikes and significant numbers were now being seen.

It appeared something was missed over the years in regards to water safety, he said.

"There was a lot of loose education that went on around the school pool in the 50s, 60s, that may not have been as robust perhaps as the in-depth swim and survive, water skills for life-type approach that we see now."

Nowadays, people had the opportunity to learn and get life-saving skills at rivers and beaches.

It appeared to be working, as Gerrard said youth were "really starting to show sensible, well-educated, preventative approaches to what they are doing in and around the water".

Gerrard expected the definite drowning figures for 2022 to be available around February/March.