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Police offer tips for staying safe in the water this summer

Water safety news

As the weather warms up, many of us flock to New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers but it’s also when several people get into trouble.

‘Sadly, each year our staff see tragic outcomes occur in and around water. Last year there were 90 drownings – the worst year since 2011,’ said a police spokesperson.

Over the course of 2022, the Police National Dive Squad has been called out to assist with several searches for missing divers, swimmers or boaties, and many of those searches involved recovering people to return to their loved ones rather than getting them home safe. This is not the outcome anyone wants.

‘We want everyone to come home to their family after a day enjoying the water.

‘Whether diving, swimming or boating, it is vital that you avoid alcohol. Alcohol and water don’t mix and can have fatal consequences.’

There are many things we can all do to stay safe this summer to drastically reduce the risk.


  • Diving for food for Christmas? Make sure you always have a buddy. Please don’t dive alone. Stay safe together so you can return home with a good haul.
  • If you are diving from a boat, it’s a legal requirement to display a dive flag. With divers, spear fishers, snorkelers and swimmers sharing the water, it pays to be careful.
  • It is a good idea for free divers and swimmers to have a float if more than 200m from shore, and if you’re going scuba diving have a safety sausage you can deploy on the surface.
  • Get the right equipment and maintain it well. Failure to regularly maintain equipment can have severe consequences.
  • Always check the weather and tide conditions in advance of departing the dock. Safe surfacing procedures, including safety stops, are an essential component in a scuba divers skill set. Plan for things if they go wrong during the dive and on the surface.
  • Are you fit and healthy enough to dive? Check if the medications you take are compatible with diving and get a check-up, especially if there are changes in your health.
  • This is also important if you have had COVID recently, particularly if you received treatment like medical oxygen or were hospitalised. There could be ongoing effects, especially to your respiratory system. Please go and see a Diving Doctor (WorkSafe) to discuss this and check that you are fit to return to any diving, SCUBA or free diving.


  • Actively supervise children around water. Things can change in an instant.
  • Rivers are changeable and unpredictable and can contain hidden dangers.
  • Check for hidden objects in swimming holes, such as logs. Water can change in depth each summer and currents can move objects underwater.
  • Please look before you leap. Get local knowledge about the risks.
  • If swimming at the beach, swim between the flags, they are there to keep you safe and watch out for rips in the water.


  • Everyone on the water needs a plan for how they are going to stay safe in case things go wrong.
  • It’s vital you prep your craft and ensure maintenance on engines and ancillary equipment has been done, check your gear to make sure it’s safe and fit for purpose and make sure you know what the weather is going to be in the area you intend to go.
  • If you get into trouble and are wearing a lifejacket your chances of survival are much greater. Always wear a life jacket when boating and jet skiing or using any other craft on the water.
  • Have two forms of waterproof communication on board, such as mobile phone or marine radio.
  • Make sure your equipment is safe and working.
  • Check the marine weather forecast at Met Service.
  • Know the rules for the area you’re in.
  • Be familiar with navigational hazards in your area.Know your responsibilities for keeping yourself and your passengers as well as other water users safe. Also, make sure you know about bylaws and rules that apply to recreational craft. As the skipper, you are legally responsible.


Check these important links below for more information on a variety of water safety.

Call 111 in an emergency if something is happening right now, illegal or suspicious. If it’s already happened you can provide information via the Police Non-Emergency number – call 105 or go online at 105.police.govt.nz.

Water Safety Code

4 simple rules to help you stay safe

Be prepared

Learn to swim and survive and set rules for safe play in the water. Always use safe and correct equipment. Know the weather and water conditions before you get in.

Watch out for yourself and others

Always pay close attention to children you are supervising in or near water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.

Be aware of the dangers

Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags. Do not enter the water after drinking alcohol.

Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.

Boating Safety Code

5 simple rules to help you stay safe


Take them – wear them. Boats, especially ones under 6m in length, can sink very quickly. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time in the water.


Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so we can help you if you get into difficulties.

Marine weather

New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the local marine weather forecast before you go and expect both weather and sea state changes.

Avoid alcohol

Safe boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. You need to stay alert and aware.

Skipper responsibility

The skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience.

Image credit: Sebastian Arie Voortman

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Source:NZ Police

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  1. ‘Skipper’ actually means ‘Shipper’ in legalese.
    ‘Master’ refers to vessels engaged in International High Seas Commerce, and / or under the dictates of Admiralty Law.
    Captain pertains to the head of the vessel, whether engaged in Commerce or Pleasure operations.
    The latter term applies in all regions and locations whether in inland waters, inland seas, coastal waters or the high seas in international waters.


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