Beach Research

Beaches continue to be one of the highest risk environments for drowning in New Zealand, and especially so in Auckland. For all New Zealand in the five years from 2016-2020, almost one-third (29%) of all preventable drownings are at beaches. In Auckland, the beach environment ranks even more likely with almost four in every ten drowning deaths (39%) occurring at beaches.
More detailed information about coastal drowning see the Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Beach and Coastal Safety Report, 10-year overview – 2010-2020 and 1-year overview 2019-2020.
Parental supervision on beaches

A survey was completed in early 2007 in response to concerns raised by surf lifeguards and regional water safety groups about the lack of quality supervision of young children by parents/caregivers during aquatic recreation at beaches, especially beaches with the added risk of surf conditions. It was undertaken at 18 Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty surf and flat-water beaches and was a collaborative effort between the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand and WaterSafe Auckland.

Following are some of the key findings from the subsequent report, completed by Dr Kevin Moran, Principal Lecturer in Health and Physical Education, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland:

  • Almost one third (32%) of the social groupings contained only one adult and more than one child.
  • When children were in the water one quarter (24%) were not adequately supervised.
  • Most supervision (74%) was done by a single person irrespective of the number of children in the water.
  • Of the 130 parents/caregivers failing to provide adequate supervision, one third (30%) lay on the beach sunbathing, one quarter (28%) talked to other people and one quarter (27%) used cell phones.
  • Most parents/caregivers estimated slight or no drowning risk for both age groups – under 5s 60%, 5-9-year-olds 82%.
The extensive results of the survey give recommendations and direction to parents/caregivers, surf lifesaving organisations, water safety organisations, national, regional and local authorities. These are included in Dr Moran’s full report. You can download a copy of the final report from Related Files (right).

Auckland beach-goers swimming behaviours and perceptions of their risk of drowning

This was a cross-sectional study of beach-goers at a range of Auckland beaches conducted over January and February 2006. The aim was to ascertain beachgoers’ perceptions of drowning risk in terms of the severity of the risk, their vulnerability to risk of drowning, the efficacy of preventative measures and their ability to deal with the risk of drowning.

  • Over half the sample (61.3%) reported higher tendency towards over-estimation of risk and over one-third (39%) of the sample reported a tendency towards under-estimation of risk.
  • Males, younger people and Māori reported higher levels of perceived self-efficacy in beach-swimming situations.
  • Females, older adults and Asian participants reported higher perceptions of vulnerability when swimming at a beach.

You can download a copy of the final report from Related Files.


Teresa Stanley [email protected]