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Life’s a beach

While many surf lifesaving clubs supervising beaches around the country are reporting that the warm weather has resulted in an influx of abusive beachgoers and multiple rescues being required, those visiting Riversdale Beach are bucking the trend and simply6 having a “very good time”.

Riversdale Surf Life Saving Club captain Mike Taylor said there have been no incidents in which people have become rude and aggressive towards on duty lifeguards, unlike what colleagues in other regions are reporting.

“We have a lot of respect for our lifeguards,” he said.

At the moment, there are several currents to be aware of at Riversdale, Taylor said, and “of course, swim between the flags.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been any incidents in Wairarapa this summer, however.

Earlier this week, a kayaker had difficulty getting back in his kayak outside of the reef at Castlepoint Beach and was rescued by locals via jet ski and then fishing boat.

On December 1, the body of diver Gerrard Hepi was found after going missing the night before at Riversdale and his death has been referred to the coroner, although police have indicated the cause of death was drowning.

Water Safety New Zealand [WSNZ] has released provisional findings of its 2023 drowning data that show a slight decrease in drownings in New Zealand this year, although “preventable drownings” remain above the 10-year average.

There were 90 preventable drownings in 2023, which is a 10 per cent increase on the 10-year average.

WSNZ CEO Daniel Gerrard believes the number of drownings in New Zealand is still too high despite the slight decrease.

“While any decrease in drownings is positive, we cannot overlook the fact that our numbers are still distressingly high.

“This is a national disaster that requires immediate and robust action,” Gerrard said.

In 2023, there was also a spike in the number of people under the age of five drowning with eight deaths recorded – three more than the 10-year average.

Beaches, rivers, pools, and offshore continue to pose the biggest risks to New Zealand swimmers, with 26 beach drownings, 24 in rivers, 11 in pools, and 11 offshore.

WSNZ is urging new government ministers to prioritise preventable drowning with the same level of concern as road fatalities.

“This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about lives and communities,” Gerrard said.

“Our commitment to water safety must be unwavering, and it requires the collective effort of the entire nation.”

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