Rivers continue to be one of the riskiest environments for drowning in New Zealand. For the last five years (2013 – 2017) over one fifth (22%) of all preventable drowning occurred in rivers (WSNZ, 2018). Beaches accounted for 21% and offshore environments 20%. In the Auckland region drowning in rivers comprised 10% 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.
The following recommendations in the Australian research are also likely to be applicable in New Zealand.
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.