MEDIA RELEASE | 21 July 2022

A very special commemoration to honour those who have lost their lives to drowning is planned for Monday 25 July 2022.

This event held at St Mary’s Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau, will provide healing for people who are grieving the loss of a special person in their lives. Rihari Wilson, who mourns the loss of his father and brother to drowning will speak on behalf of grieving families and raise awareness of the importance of water safety education so people can enjoy the water safely.

In the evening, the Sky Tower will light up blue as other nations across the world commence their tributes.

Drowning Prevention Auckland says this is a sad but important day for those families in Aotearoa and globally who have lost loved ones through drowning. But it is also a day of hope. In New Zealand, drownings are largely preventable and water safety education is the key to improving people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around water.

“The water safety sector in New Zealand is united as one voice to raise awareness that anyone can drown, no one should”, says Drowning Prevention Auckland chief executive, Nicola Keen-Biggelaar.

“This year alone, since New Year’s Day, 10 people have drowned in the Auckland region. In the last five years, drowning took the lives of 85 people locally (2017 – 2021)*. All 85 deaths were preventable leaving 85 families devastated.

“With warmer water this past summer, we’ve noticed more people visiting beaches, going out on boats, playing on new toys like paddleboards and kayaks. Yet we also saw more people get into strife and overestimate their current level of fitness or be willing to take more risks after going through extended lockdowns.”

Auckland Councillor and Parks, Arts, Community and Events Chairperson Alf Filipaina says that the impact of drowning deaths on the community really brings home the need to mark this day: “Too many people lose their lives through drowning. Communities are fractured with the loss of loved ones. This day remembers but also highlights we must do all we can to prevent families and communities losing their whānau and friends.”

Drowning affects every nation of the world. In New Zealand, the drowning rate is disproportionately high compared to other OECD countries.

In April 2021, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first ever Resolution on drowning prevention, acknowledging the issue for the first time in its 75-year history. New Zealand, along with over 80 countries worldwide, including Australia and some Pacific Nations, co-sponsored this historic resolution, which was initiated by Bangladesh and Ireland.

“Drowning is a preventable public health problem. As an organisation dedicated to saving lives in, on and around water, Drowning Prevention Auckland takes positive and practical action to promote and teach people water safety skills to help keep Kiwis safe around water”, says Keen-Biggelaar.

Drowning Prevention Auckland is one of Tāmaki Makaurau’s lead water safety education providers delivering water safety education and rescue training into the community and digitally through their free online education portal. Their drowning prevention strategies and education programmes are reaching into diverse communities, and across preschools and schools to teach people to enjoy the water safely.

Keen-Biggelaar is thrilled to have the collective support of members of the water safety sector and the public attend the commemorations at St Mary’s Bay at dawn (7am) on 25 July.

“This acknowledges the important work we are all doing to promote and deliver life saving education so families can celebrate their water experiences.” says Keen- Biggelaar.

*Auckland Region and New Zealand drowning Preventable deaths 1 Jan 2017 – 31 Dec 2021 Report. (Water Safety New Zealand).

Photo credit: The Hui (Newshub)