Rivers continue to be one of the riskiest environments for drowning in New Zealand. For the last five years (2016 – 2020) over one quarter (25%) of all preventable drowning occurred in rivers (WSNZ, 2021). In the Auckland region in the same period, drowning in rivers comprised 13% of all preventable drowning.
Rivers are a popular venue for swimming and aquatic recreation. A New Zealand study of tourists showed that almost one third (28%) of New Zealand residents and one fifth (21%) of international tourists had swum in a river in the previous 12 months (Moran & Ferner, 2017).
Rivers often seem benign, and it is easy to underestimate the power and force of the water in rivers. It is important to develop water competencies to be safer in rivers.
Increased danger occurs when rivers, creeks and streams flood. A small rise in the water level can dramatically change the flow and speed of the river and debris and faster flowing currents can cause banks to become unstable.
Rivers are also dangerous for trampers. Crossing rivers is the second highest cause of tramper fatalities in New Zealand. Since 2007, there have been 21 river crossing fatalities, and 14 of these were related to tramping.
The following research articles provide further information.
Moran Ph D, K., & Ferner, D. (2017). Water safety and aquatic recreation among international tourists in New Zealand. International journal of aquatic research and education, 10(1), 5.
Peden, A. E., Franklin, R. C., & Leggat, P. (2017). Preventing river drowning deaths: Lessons from coronial recommendations. Health Promotion Journal of Australia.
Peden, A. E., Franklin, R. C., & Leggat, P. A. (2016). Fatal river drowning: the identification of research gaps through a systematic literature review. Injury Prevention, injuryprev-2015.