Stay safe around water

Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in New Zealand, behind road vehicle accidents and falls.

Being safe in the water doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but thinking about your safety and that of family and friends can save lives.

As an island country, New Zealand has a wealth of water-based activities. Whether it’s a swim at the beach, a dip in the river, adrenaline-packed white- water rafting, fishing from rocks, out on the boat or anything else involving water, the best thing you can do before heading out is to familiarise yourself with the appropriate safety information.

As with most activities there’s an element of risk, so make sure you challenge yourself within your limits and ask questions before heading out. Always remember the four rules of the Water Safety Code.

1. Be prepared

Learn to swim and survive, and set rules for safe play in the water.  Always use safe and correct equipment and know the weather and water conditions before you get in.

2. Watch out for yourself and others

Always pay close attention to children you are supervising in or near water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.

3. Be aware of the dangers

Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags. Don’t enter the water after drinking alcohol.

4. Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.


If you’re heading out on a boat, remember the rules of the Boating Safety Code.

1. Life jackets – take them, wear them

Boats, especially ones of less that 6 metres in length, can sink very quickly. Wearing a life-jacket increases your survival time in the water.

2. Skipper responsibility

The skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience. Go on a Coastguard Boating Education day skipper course to make sure you have all the skills you need to stay safe.

3. Communications

Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so you can call for help if you get into difficulty.

4. Marine weather

New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the local marine weather forecast before you go and expect both weather and sea changes.

5. Avoid alcohol

Safe boating and alcohol don’t mix. Things can change quickly on the water. You need to stay alert and aware.

For more information on the Water Safety Code and the Boating Safety Code, visit

Children Under 5s

Water is a life-threatening hazard for young children in and around the home. Make sure you keep you eyes on your children when they’re in or around water – including in the bath.

Children learn by exploring their environment – new adventures are only a few steps away – so don’t let your guard down around any body of water. It takes only 60 seconds for a child to drown.

For more information, see nz/education/recreation-advice/under-5s/

Learning to swim

While many people think everyone knows how to swim, the scary thing is that a lot of kids today can’t.

Make sure your kids have the opportunity to learn to swim – either at school, at a private swim school, or even by teaching them yourself!

For more information, see