By 3 News online staff
The number of drowning deaths over the Christmas holiday period is down this year, but holiday makers are still being urged to be safe in the water.
Three people drowned in the water between 4pm on Christmas Eve and 6am this morning. There have been 10 drownings on average over the same period in the past five years.
One person died while diving, another while rafting and the third while trying to help a family member in distress.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge says it is three deaths too many, especially as New Zealand has the third-highest drowning rate in the developed world.
“We had hoped to be announcing a zero holiday period toll today and it’s incredibly sad that instead we’re talking about three people that have lost their lives in the water.”
And Mr Claridge says there were many water rescues, which indicates the death toll could have been higher.
“There have been a significant number of extremely close calls and if it wasn’t for others putting themselves at risk… the number of deaths would have been far higher.”
But Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service chairman Tim Jago is pleased with rescue efforts and public safety on the beach.
“We can see that our surf and beach safety messages are getting through,” he says. “People are reading our advisory signage, they are approaching lifeguards seeking advice on where and how to swim safely, and paradoxically we are observing that swimmers are becoming quicker to raise their hand to summons assistance.”
Last weekend he says there were more than 1000 people swimming at Muriwai. Eight people were rescued on Sunday, with swimmers quick to alert lifeguards when they were in trouble.
Mr Jago expects this coming weekend to be just as busy for lifeguards.
“We shouldn’t be surprised if there are a large number of rescues and preventative actions by lifeguards. It’s a reflection of the huge and increasing popularity of our beaches at this time of year.”
Mr Claridge advises people to always take care in the water.
“Watch the weather, keep kids within arms' reach, know your limits, don’t drink alcohol if you’re going out on or in the water and use the right safety equipment.”