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Water Safety New Zealand

Predictive Modelling Warns: Worst Year for Drowning this Century.

Water Safety New Zealand Highlights Grim Forecast as Water Safety Awareness Month Begins


Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) rings in the start of Water Safety Awareness Month with a stark warning: 2023 is shaping up to be the most devastating year for drowning fatalities this century. Updated predictive modelling now anticipates up to 103 lives could be tragically lost by year’s end.


• Revised projections show an even grimmer outlook than previously anticipated, with the nation bracing for potentially 103 drownings in 2023.


• As of 31 October, the alarming tally of fatalities has already reached 75, outpacing previous years.


“We are deeply troubled by this trend. With the updated modelling, we might see another 36 lives lost in the remaining months of 2023. This means we could be facing one drowning almost every two days until the end of the year,” says Daniel Gerrard, Chief Executive of Water Safety NZ.

This disturbing forecast comes on the heels of a challenging summer marked by unfortunate events, adverse weather conditions, and risky behaviours. In response, WSNZ has intensified its efforts to scrutinize the data, aiming to provide the water safety sector with comprehensive insights and foresight.


"Our focus on detailed data analysis enables us to raise the alarm sooner and respond more decisively to prevent these tragedies," comments Gerrard.

With summer approaching and daylight savings underway, WSNZ urges all New Zealanders to make safety their top priority. “Ensure your boats are well-maintained, insist on life jackets for the entire family, thoroughly check your diving gear, and honestly assess your swimming skills before engaging in water activities,” Gerrard stresses.


Reflecting on last year, 2022 witnessed a disheartening 94 drownings, the highest in a decade. This figure surpassed the 10-year average by 12 fatalities, underscoring the critical need for heightened safety measures. With some regions expecting hotter and drier summers, increased water-related activities could exacerbate the risks.


An analysis of the 2022 data reveals craft-related incidents as the leading cause of drownings, with 29 fatalities. Swimming accounted for 19 deaths, aligning with its decade-long average. The ongoing disproportionate impact on Māori and Pasifika communities remains a pressing concern, especially in activities like swimming, boating, and underwater activities such as kai gathering.


“It’s crucial for every New Zealander to treat the water with the utmost respect. We all bear collective responsibility to ensure the safety of our loved ones,” asserts WSNZ.

As Water Safety Awareness Month commences, WSNZ and its key national partners, calls on the nation to come together, elevating awareness and taking actionable steps to avert what could be a record-breaking year for drowning tragedies.






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