New Zealand is on track for a record low annual drowning toll on the back of fresh figures showing 15 fewer people have died in the water so far this year.
The mid-year numbers indicate 40 people drowned in the first six months of the year, down from 55 at the same time in 2012.
Two regions, Canterbury and Taranaki, have yet to record any deaths despite seven and five respectively drowning in those regions last year.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge says while it’s always positive to see a drop in drownings, the number was still too high.
He pointed to other statistics showing Otago had recorded three deaths to date, already surpassing its 2012 toll of two. And Northland, at five deaths, is just one short of last year.
Men made up 72 percent of the mid-year toll. A third of the victims died at beaches. Four children, including two preschoolers, were among the dead.
Mr Claridge warned swimmers to know their limits, watch the conditions, wear a life jacket, abstain from alcohol and always keep kids within arm’s reach.
“I’ll be repeating these same safety messages until the drowning toll is zero,” he said.
Last year’s toll was 98, a drop from 2011 when 131 people drowned, the highest annual toll since 2003.