Lifeguards plea to ‘‘swim between flags’’
The Surf Life Saving season officially began on Labour Weekend with patrols beginning in parts of the upper North Island. Others will roll out across the lower North Island and into the South Island as the weather warms up.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand urges people to choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags in an effort to break the rising numbers of drownings each year.
Chief executive Paul Dalton says last summer was one of the worst in many years with 19 beach drownings between Labour Weekend and Easter - up 36 per cent (five drownings) on the previous summer, despite the poor weather keeping many people out of the water.
‘‘From these grim statistics, people clearly need to take their own safety at beaches far more seriously,’’ he says.
Dalton says it’s disappointing to see the increasing drowning rates but one statistic remains the same year on year; zero drownings between the flags.
‘‘While we may sound like a broken record, there is a very important reason why we urge people to choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags. It is always the safest place to swim.’’
Over the 2016/17 summer season, Surf Lifeguards rescued 612 people from life-threatening situations and assisted another 1,184 back to safety.