On the eve of a nationwide strategy being released to tackle the country’s drowning statistics, Drowning Prevention Auckland is seeking to highlight the dangers that tamariki can get into without raising an alarm.

The New Zealand Water Safety Sector Strategy 2025 will facilitate a coordinated effort between a number of agencies, including Drowning Prevention Auckland.

Under-fives are a key area of focus in the strategy, with official figures showing that twenty-four tamariki aged under-five have drowned in New Zealand in the past five years (from 2016 to 2020). And it’s not just swimming pools causing issues warns chief executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar.

Mum supervising kids by paddling pool

“When our youngsters get into trouble in the water, it’s not often that they’re able to cry for help. The younger they are, the more likely they are unable to lift their head to keep their airways clear of water. The less comfortable or confident they are in the water, the more likely they are to panic.”

While half of those aged under five who drown do so in home pools, there is an emerging trend of drownings happening in other, often unexpected places – ponds, drains, creeks, even bathtubs.

“Water is particularly attractive to infants and pre-schoolers. As soon as they become mobile, they are able to access any water left in or around the home. Pēpi have drowned in is as little as four centimetres of water,” says Ms Keen-Biggelaar.

Early Childhood
e-learning module

To help parents and caregivers keep tamariki safe, the organisation has added a new training module to its eLearning programme. The training module reinforces the need to provide barriers in and around the home and ensure there is appropriate supervision, especially when outside.

Access the e-learning module

Click the button below to enter the e-learning module

More than three quarters (83 per cent) of those under five who have drowned in the past five years are male, a marked change from previous years when it has traditionally been a lot more even.

“We’re seeing young boys get into trouble more frequently – possibly the result of risk taking and over confidence. It’s really important that you keep a close eye on youngsters you’re in charge of, particularly if they have a tendency to get into mischief.”

Some tips from the module:

Creating Barriers Indoors

Shut bathroom and toilet doors, empty baths after use and store the plug out of reach.

Keep them safe around the home - outside

Empty paddling pools and water containers and store them out of reach, or on their side so they don’t fill up with rainwater.

Open Water Environments

When outside at picnics and get-togethers with family and friends, ensure there is always at least one designated adult supervisor, who undertakes a regular head count.

Supervision is key

Supervise with constant visual contact and proximity. Avoid distractions such as talking on, or looking at a phone.