2022 Spring Forum Overview

2022 Spring Forum Overview

In September our Spring Forum brought together sector leaders, research, and industry experts to share and discuss some of the key findings arising from PRE research and related water safety projects.

Dr Kevin Moran, DPA set the scene around the problems and practices worldwide which highlighted some of the similar issues and procedures to New Zealand, whilst identifying considerations for solutions. He was clear on role of PRE during a rescue was to ‘interrupt the chain of survival and buy time’. He also provided findings and updates on behaviours of Rock-based fishers from data spanning back to 2011.

Dr Teresa Stanley, DPA and Dr Mick Kearney, SLSNZ shared the current findings from our collaborative PRE project funded by NZSAR. The project aims to produce national guidelines that helps coastal managers and emergency services make better-informed decisions about PRE requirements and educate on their use.

Dr Stanley shared the results from a trial of testing accuracy of throw for the various proposed PRE to see which would be best suited for various locations. Results showed that for the majority of the population, throwing efficiency of most PRE is very limited. Dr Kearney shared the research into the identified signage issues and researched options, including a case study from South Africa.

Ants Lowe discussed the findings from our freshwater hazard assessments (outlined above) and introduced Holly Foreman from Safeswim, Auckland Council to discuss the new pins and share further information about the WHO recognised platform. The platform allows people to check water safety and water quality before they swim with the number of sites around New Zealand (including beach and freshwater) continuing to grow.

Grief and healing the focus of World Drowning Prevention Day, with dawn memorial planned for Tāmaki Makaurau

Grief and healing the focus of World Drowning Prevention Day, with dawn memorial planned for Tāmaki Makaurau

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)

Lifejacket Use and Maintenance

Lifejacket Use and Maintenance

Calling Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland home means living in a city surrounded by many beautiful water environments. Recreational activities on or near the water are common, everywhere from our lakes and rivers, to our harbours and rugged west coast beaches.

Along with the health and wellbeing benefits these water-based activities bring, also comes the risk of drowning. A tragic and preventable event that can affect anyone.

The Maritime NZ Boating Fatality Report notes 98 recreational boating fatalities in the six years 2015-2019. Over half (58%) were not wearing a lifejacket, and in a further 9% the lifejackets were not worn or secured correctly. The report states that most fatalities occurred when the person ended up in the water after falling overboard, or the vessel capsizing or being swamped. The incidents occurred suddenly and the victims did not have time to fit lifejackets if they were not already being worn.

Whether you are boating, fishing, paddling, or gathering seafood, it is important that you know when and how to wear a lifejacket (sometimes referred to as a PFD – Personal Flotation Devices).

When do you need to wear a lifejacket?

Bylaws on the wearing of lifejackets vary. Click the button to check the rules about when you need to wear a lifejacket (Ture ā-Rohe Mahi Urungi Āhuru 2021 Navigation Bylaw 2021)

How to fit a lifejacket

It is absolutely essential that your lifejacket is correctly fitted. It should fit snugly and shouldn’t ride up when the person enters the water.
Out of the water
  • Read the label on the lifejacket to find the right fit. Select the correct lifejacket by size and weight indicators.
  • Check belt straps are not twisted.
  • Put it on and do up the zip, if applicable, and each buckle so that it is a snug fit.
  • Self check the belt by inserting two fingers between the belt and the lifejacket.
  • Buddy check by lifting at the shoulders to ensure the lifejacket doesn’t ride up past earlobes.
In the water
You may need to do this in emergency situations such as accidental falls from a boat not wearing a lifejacket or if thrown a lifejacket as a rescue aid.

  • Open lifejacket and lie it face up in the water.
  • Lie on top of the lifejacket, without putting arms through the armholes.
  • Put one arm through the opposite armholes.
  • Rotate body and put other arm through other armhole.

Maintaining lifejackets

Not only should you have a correctly fitted lifejacket for every person taking part in the water-based activity, these lifejackets should be in good condition.

Most manufacturers state that lifejackets should last ten years, but this can be less depending on wear, care, and storage.

Wash in fresh water, and dry completely before storing. Check for damage before you put your lifejackets away.

Check if your lifejacket will work:

  • Pull the straps, hard.
  • Look for tears or cuts in the straps.
  • Check for tears, cuts, or punctures in the lifejacket.
  • Check if it floats – Check with the manufacturer or lifejacket service centre.

For more information on checking lifejackets visit the Check your lifejackets page of the Maritime NZ website.

If you have an inflatable lifejacket we advise you to perform this check annually to ensure your lifejacket is operational.

Don’t have a lifejacket? Borrow one from us!

If you need a lifejacket for an upcoming activity and don’t have one, then you can borrow one from one of our Lifejacket Hubs around Tāmaki Makaurau. Click the button for locations and to find out more.

School group lifejacket loan scheme

We have a supply of lifejackets available, free of charge, for aquatic education programmes. Click the button for more information.

Free e-learning platform

Our free e-learning platform has several topics relating to the usage of lifejackets for various ages and activities.
Spring Forum 2022

Spring Forum 2022

WHEN 1pm to 5pm, Tuesday 20 September, 2022
WHERE Hyundai Marine Sports Centre, 8/10 Tamaki Drive, Auckland
RSVPTo [email protected] by Tuesday 13 September

Come along to hear about:

How research is informing the development of national PRE guidelines and how this can provide safer environments and opportunities for safer bystander rescue.
How risk assessment of freshwater sites is achieved and how it is being used by Safeswim to increase public safety.


Dr Kevin Moran (DPA)

Public Rescue Equipment – the problems and practice worldwide

Dr Mick Kearney (SLSNZ) & Dr Teresa Stanley (DPA)

Public Rescue Equipment and the establishment of national guidelines

Ants Lowe (DPA)

Freshwater hazard assessment

Holly Foreman (Auckland Council)

Safeswim platform

SUP Safety

SUP Safety

Stand up paddle boarding is a popular activity for people of all ages and activity levels. This means that there is a wide range in the level of ability and confidence amongst paddle boarders. We want everyone to be able to safely enjoy this water sport which is great for fitness and overall wellbeing. Here are the key things you can do to keep yourself safe while out on your SUP.
Use a leash
Make sure you know and use the right leash for the conditions. This varies depending on which type of body of water you are in. Rivers and currents have different requirements to lakes, which differs again to surf.
Wear a correctly-fitted lifejacket

Sometimes referred to as a PFD (personal flotation device) or buoyancy aid, a lifejacket is an essential item when out on the water. Ensure your lifejacket, and that of anyone you are paddling with, is correctly fitted. If you don’t have a lifejacket you can borrow one from us from one of our Auckland Lifejacket Hubs.

2+ waterproof forms of communication
Always take at least two forms of waterproof communication with you in case you need to call for help. This can include a mobile phone in a waterproof bag and a whistle on your lifejacket.
Check the conditions and be prepared for them to change
Weather and water conditions can change quickly. Check the forecast before you go and be prepared for the conditions to change while you are out paddling.
Tell someone your plan
Before you head out, tell someone on shore where you are going and when you expect to return.

Check out this video from our friends at New Zealand Stand Up Paddle which covers these key points. They go more indepth in aspects of SUP safety on their website.

Adult Water Safety e-learning

Learn more about staying safe while enjoying water-based activities by completing our Adult Water Safety e-learning module.

Rip Current Safety

Rip Current Safety

Getting caught in a rip current is an all-too-common occurence at our surf beaches in Aotearoa, with tens of thousands of rescues taking place every year and many of the fatal drownings at beaches being directly related to rip currents.

Over the last ten years, over one-third (38%) of beach and coastal fatal drownings occurred at a surf beach in New Zealand. Rip currents are the greatest hazard at a surf beach; however, SLSNZ research shows nearly two-thirds (60%) of New Zealanders cannot identify a rip.

This blog covers recognising rips and how to manage yourself if you end up getting caught in one.


A rip current is a strong and fast flowing current moving toward the sea that travels up to one to two metres per second. Rip currents usually develop close to the shoreline. Rip currents are dangerous because they carry anything in the water seawards to deeper waters. Most people don’t know how strong a rip current is until they are caught in one.
(The red arrows in this image are the rips.)


You need to be able to recognise a rip current and stay out of them.
What to look for:


Calm spot in the water, i.e. No breaking waves


A patch of water that appears discoloured.

Deep, dark

Deeper, darker water

Out to sea

Anything floating out to sea

REAL-LIFE SCENARIO: Recognising a rip

This 360 degree video gives you a bird’s eye view of O’Neill beach in Auckland.
Use your mouse or finger to navigate around, along with the prompts on screen, to see if you can spot the rip.


Remember the 3 Rs if you get caught in a rip current:


Relax and float with the rip. Never swim against a rip.


Raise your hand to signal for help


Ride the rip until it weakens or help arrives. Once calm swim with the waves back to shore.

REAL-LIFE SCENARIO: Managing yourself in a rip

This 360 degree video, filmed at at Te Henga, Bethell’s beach in Auckland shows a real-life scenario
of people caught in a rip current.
Use your mouse or finger to navigate around, along with the prompts on screen, to see how they managed themselves.


So how can you prepare yourself to stay safe at the beach this Summer?

1. Know how to recognise a rip
2. Know what to do if you get caught in a rip
3. On a patrolled beach, always swim between the red and yellow flags
4. Always stay within your own ability and keep an eye on the conditions


For more information about open water safety and coastal awareness, check out the following e-learning modules:

Water Safety for Youth and Young Adults

Adult Water Safety

Don’t underestimate the risks, don’t overestimate your ability.
Me mataara ki ngā tūraru, me mataara ki ō āheinga.
Aua fakahanoa! Aua fakatokoluga haau tau manatu!
Aua le soona soona fuaina lo outou gafatia pe manatu faatauvaa i tulaga lamatia

From Splash Participant to Water Safety Ambassador

From Splash Participant to Water Safety Ambassador

Kairo Jacobs came through the Splash Break-Away programme and is now a Water Safety Ambassador. Read his story about his initial reluctance and just how much he gets out of working within the community.
“I first started the Splash Programme when I was around 12 years old. I was reluctant to attend at first because not only was the programme unfamiliar to me but, no one I knew was going either. As daunting as it was, I can honestly say that I felt at home from the moment I arrived. Not only was the atmosphere warm and welcoming, but the instructors were fast to familiarise themselves with the kids and showed a genuine interest and love for what they were doing.

When the time came to search for casual employment in Year 12, I thought I would enquire about becoming a Water Safety Ambassador. Not only had I done the program a few times, but the Ambassadors seemed to really love what they do, and this is something that stuck with me. I have completed my first season as an Ambassador, and it has been an enjoyable experience being on the other side so far. Working in the community, teaching skills that will hopefully benefit the kids in the future or even help save a life is rewarding and not something you can find in any job. I never thought working with kids in the community was something I would be doing but now. I look forward to the next season”.

This is one of the ways we are committed to recognising “Water Safety Champions” within the areas of work we do. Kairo’s “why” emphasises the importance of recognising our “future water safety ambassadors” when delivering programmes such as Splash Break-Away.

Kairo is one of the few staff who have gained employment through doing Splash Break-Away. We are lucky to have him as part of our team, he brings his own knowledge around water safety, is passionate about teaching, and is relatable to the kids.

Thank you Kairo.

January Splash Break-Away registrations are open!

Click the button for more information and to register
Water Safety Advisers Returning After Last Year’s Success

Water Safety Advisers Returning After Last Year’s Success

MEDIA RELEASE | 17 December 2021

With the arrival of warmer weather and the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, more New Zealanders will be heading to their favourite watering hole for a picnic and a swim. Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA) wants everyone to enjoy the water but reminds people that waterfalls and waterholes pose dangers for swimmers.

DPA’s Chief Executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says: “We’re really pleased to be supporting the water safety adviser programme at Hūnua Falls again this summer. While the country’s waterfalls and waterholes are inviting, they are very unpredictable and unforgiving. Tragically, they have too often proved deadly.”

In the five years 2016-2020, there have been 14 drowning deaths in waterfalls in New Zealand. Since 2016, there have been three drowning deaths at Hūnua Falls – two in 2016 and one in 2019.

Over the past two summers water safety advocates and organisations have worked together to help prevent further drownings at the picturesque Hūnua Falls. Water Safety New Zealand, Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland, and YMCA North are funding advisers who will be on site to educate people about the dangers involved in swimming at the popular destination.

“An integral part of this water safety project is having water safety advisers at the falls from late December through to the end of January, Wednesday to Sunday, advising about on-site risks at Hūnua and recommending safe behaviours. Advisers are on site at Hūnua Falls from 22 December for the summer.” Says YMCA North’s, Group Manager Outdoors & Fundraising, Dave Lockwood.

The surveying of visitors by the water safety advisers revealed that while most people were visiting Hūnua Falls to look at the waterfall or walk a track, there is still more work required to help people know why waterfalls are dangerous and not recommended for swimming. The same survey revealed that over half (55%) of people were over-confident in their own swimming competence and thought it more likely that others would get into trouble rather than themselves.

Auckland Councillor and Parks, Arts, Community and Events Chairperson Alf Filipaina is pleased to see the water safety advisers returning this year. “Education is really important. Too many people have died at Hūnua Falls in the past and it needs to be repeated that the falls are dangerous and unsuitable for swimming.”

He believes that the on-site advisers have played a vital role with reducing drownings, both fatal and non-fatal.

“Having people there most days over the busy period is really helping. Not only are Aucklanders learning about the risks around waterfalls, but they are taking that message back to their communities and that is important. We want people to come and view the majesty of the falls, but we want them to stay safe and return home to their whānau / ‘aiga too.”

Nicola reminds people of the water safety code, which will help keep people safe around any type of water:

Be prepared

Check the weather forecast, the Safeswim website (www.safeswim.org.nz) and know the local environment. Set rules for safe play. Flooding can be prevalent after rain, causing strong currents and turbulent water.

Look out for yourself and others

Always supervise children around water and keep children under five years within arm’s reach; never swim alone and don’t pressure your friends to get into the water if they’re not confident.

Be aware of the dangers

It’s the unknown, what lies below the surface and not knowing the depth of the water. Slippery and submerged rocks, debris and underwater currents pose dangers. Sudden changes in depth together with slippery rocks may make it difficult for you to find your footing. Cold water will fatigue you. Get out of the water before you get tired.

Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your abilities and skill level; know what you can and can’t do in the water. Once again, don’t be pressured into going into the water if you can’t swim or aren’t confident.
“We urge everyone to think about water safety this summer. Enjoy the water but don’t over- estimate your abilities and under-estimate the risks. We are all responsible for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe when we’re in, on and around water.” WSNZ’s Chief Executive Daniel Gerrard said.
DPA Launches New Adult Water Safety eLearning Module

DPA Launches New Adult Water Safety eLearning Module

Drowning Prevention Auckland has launched a new eLearning module for adults which aims to address the gap between perception and reality when it comes to water competency. The objective is to help the higher risk group of older adults stay safe by improving their competence, skills and understanding through effective preparation.

The ‘Water Safety for Adults’ component is available online to anyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is completely free as part of the DPA eLearning platform. The module covers how to assess personal competence in and around water and gives important tips and information about how to be safer when participating in water-based activities, particularly in open water environments.

Research findings show that adults perceive that they are more competent in water than they actually are, especially in open water. This gap between perception and reality leads to an increased risk of drowning. This comes from doctoral research completed by Teresa Stanley earlier this year. “The problem isn’t that people can’t swim or float, but they can’t swim or float as well as they think they can in open water” states Stanley.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our eLearning platform to be relevant and accessible to those that need to learn and grow their water competency the most. The more we can do to grow knowledge that changes attitudes and behaviours, the safer our community will be recreating in, on and around the water” says Nicola Keen-Biggelaar, Chief Executive of Drowning Prevention Auckland.

“We’d like to thank The Lion Foundation for their support in developing this module, particularly given some of the constraints we have as a society in educating face-to-face.”

If you, or someone you love, is planning to participate in open water activities such as boating, swimming, kayaking, paddling, surfing, or snorkelling this summer, take some time to complete this module.

Free adult water safety elearning module

Complete the Adult Water Safety e-Learning module.

Diving Safety Podcast 2

Diving Safety Podcast 2

Clayton continues his tips for safe diving practices, this time focusing on the importance of having the correct gear and how it can help keep you safe while you are diving.
Diving Safety Podcast 1

Diving Safety Podcast 1

Aquatic Educator Clayton Wikaira presents this podcast which draws safety tips and information from his 30+ years of experience diving for kaimoana.

Watch to hear about Clayton’s own close call and learn how to stay safe while free diving for kai.