GISBORNE has had the lowest drowning statistics in the country for the past 18 months.
The district had no drownings over this period but Water Safety New Zealand advisers warn against complacency around water.
Statistics show 40 people drowned already this year, down from 55 last year — a figure WSNZ calls “still shockingly high”.
Otago has already passed its 2012 drowning toll, with three drownings — one more than their total last year.
Northland, with five deaths, is one short of its 2012 drowning toll.
Gisborne has had its share of drowning tragedy in the past 10 years, including young children.
The most recent drownings were in 2011, when two-year-old Sukhraj Singh drowned in the Taruheru River off the Atkinson Reserve and four-year-old Michael Mitchell drowned in an open water tank at Whatatutu.
In 2010, four-year-old Lucas Ward went missing on the banks of the Waimata River and nine days later his body was found upstream from his grandparents’ home.
Early in 2009, three-year-old Zhane Edmonds drowned in the lagoon at Turihaua. In the same year, also at Turihaua, 17-year-old William John Grant drowned while diving with friends.
Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay Water Safety adviser Roanne Poi says there has been quite a lot of awareness in Gisborne.
“Compared with other regions, and despite Gisborne having had drownings, it always seems to have the lowest numbers.”
There are opportunities for people to learn to swim and survive, says Water Safety New Zealand.
A programme offered to primary schools called the Sealord Swim for Life, gives children subsidised lessons.
“There are 10 lessons to improve children’s swimming,” says Ms Poi.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge says people are well aware of the dangers with water but it is not a time for parents to drop their guard.
“It is great there have been no drownings. But parents still need to watch kids in and around the water.”
Gisborne District Council backs Water Safety New Zealand.
In last month’s meeting it gave $9000 extra funding to Surf Life Saving New Zealand to increase the services at Uawa (Tolaga Bay).
“This money is to help extend the patrols on the beach,” said the club treasurer Kelly Blackman.
“The patrols will go right down to the wharf.”
Water Safety New Zealand figures in the past five years show the region has had eight deaths caused by drowning.
The highest number of four deaths was recorded in 2011.
Mr Claridge says with five months of the year still to go, New Zealanders need to step up and make water safety a personal priority.
Taranaki and Canterbury are the only other two regions where there have been no drownings to date this year.