Changeable and Unpredictable
Rivers are changeable and unpredictable and can contain hidden dangers. Look before you leap. Check for hidden objects and swimming holes can change depth summer to summer and currents can move objects underwater. Near dams water levels and flows can change significantly throughout the day and massive flows may be released at any time. River banks can become unstable during flood and after heavy rain. Stay well clear of a river in flood.
Rivers are powerful
There are strong currents and suction effects, and deep water especially near dams.If you’re wading, a wading staff will give extra support and you can feel ahead for obstructions or changes in flow. Have someone with you for extra support and safety
Rivers are not patrolled. Never enter a river alone. If in doubt stay out.The pressure of moving water is constant and can be powerful even if the river looks slow moving and calm.
Stay River Safe
Swimming in Rivers
Swimming spots in rivers can be great places in summer. If you pick your spot carefully and check it out each time you swim there you can keep yourself and your friends safe. Swimming in a river is different from swimming in a pool or in the sea. Swimmers often underestimate the power of the river or overestimate their own abilities. The river bottom is irregular and can change from day to day. It is often difficult to tell how deep a certain part of the river is. Annually there are a number of serious injuries caused by people jumping into water that is too shallow. Check out any jumping spot thoroughly before jumping. Do this by getting in the water and physically checking the depth and the whole landing area. Do this every time you visit a jumping spot to check that nothing has drifted into the landing zone since you were last there.
How to stay river safe:
Learn water safety skills, how to assess risk and how to swim.
Always swim as part of a group.
Check for hazards both where you are swimming and downstream.
Do not mix swimming with alcohol or drugs.
Read and obey any warning signage.
Should you cross?
Crossing alone is hazardous and it is not recommended that you get yourself into a river crossing situation if you are alone.
Where should you cross?
Never cross a river in flood – 80% of river crossing drownings have occurred when the river has been in flood.
Check the speed of the river, look downstream for run out hazards and see if there are good entry and exit points
Avoid crossing on a bend, above a place where another stream joins the river and where the water is dirty and cloudy
When crossing always:
keep your body side on to the current;
take small shuffling steps;
move diagonally downstream with the current to conserve your energy;
have a leader to control the crossing make sure that everyone can hear instructions before you get into the river;
If the crossing does not go as planned, stay linked up and back up slowly out of the river. Do not break the link until everyone is into very shallow water.
Rivers in Flood
A significant danger is created when our rivers, creeks and streams flood. Debris and fast flowing currents can cause banks to become unstable and even a small rise in the water level can dramatically change the way a river flows. When inland waterways are in flood it is important to keep out of the water wherever possible and keep well away from river and creek banks, they can become weak and subject to collapsing.
How to Stay Safe around Rivers
More people drown in rivers than in any other aquatic environment in New Zealand.
Rivers are changeable and unpredictable particularly after heavy rainfall.
2023 DROWNING FATAILITIES TO DATE
There have been 14 official drownings to date in 2023. This number is updated weekly.
2022 DROWNING FATALITIES
There were 93 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2022 calendar year.
2023 SUMMER DROWNINGS
There have been 14 official drownings to date in the 2023 summer period.
2021 DROWNING FATALITIES
There were 90 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2021 calendar year.
As a gender split, 84.95% of 2022 drowning fatalities were male. 15.05% were female.
2020 DROWNING FATALITIES
There were 84 official preventable drowning fatalities in the 2021 calendar year.
Be River Safe
Learn how to recognise hazards and stay safe around rivers.