Water Safety

Many flock to New Zealand’s idyllic beaches, lakes, and rivers in summertime, but it’s important to be aware that these can be dangerous places.
As per the Annual Water Safety NZ Drowning Report, each year rates of drowning are increasing, with Auckland and Northland having the highest drowning rates in New Zealand.
Beaches and oceans have the highest drowning rates due to rapidly changing environment. If you are heading to the beach here is what to look out for:
Choose a beach with a lifeguard: Use the safeswim.org lifeguard map to choose a lifeguarded beach. Always swim between the red and yellow flags. You can also ask a lifeguard for advice on how to stay safe at the beach you are visiting.
Location Awareness: Assess the beach location for potential dangers. New Zealand's west coast beaches pose higher risks than east coast ones due to exposure to open ocean currents.
Identifying Rip Currents:
  • Calm stretches between waves
  • Fewer breaking waves
  • Rippled surface with smooth water
  • Discoloured sandy water beyond waves.
If caught in a rip: swim sideways to escape the current. Avoid swimming against it, as exhaustion will set in.
Surf Safety: Consult locals/online before surfing to uncover hidden dangers like rocks, offshore winds, and rip currents. Only surf at unknown beaches after confirming safety.
Rocks and Tide Awareness: Exercise caution when exploring rocky areas, especially during incoming tides and surging waves. Plan rock exploration when the tide is receding for increased safety.
Important: If you see someone in trouble at the beach, inform a lifeguard or call 111 if there is not one nearby. Check out Surf Lifesaving NZ for more beach safety tips.
Lakes and Rivers:
Lake and River pollution: Despite New Zealand having many beautiful lakes/rivers; due to bird flocks, storm water drains, and pollution they are not all safe to swim in! Before swimming in any lake/river, check its water quality online to make sure it is safe.
Additional river safety: With rivers having 22% of drowning rates in NZ (2022), it is important to also important to keep safe in rivers. When choosing your river swimming spot, think about the following:
  • Look for safe swimming holes, or better still, ask the locals where the best spots are. Good swimming spots have:
  • An easy place to get in and out
  • A relatively weak current
  • Nothing floating downstream like driftwood