Water Safety In New Zealand


Dear Sporting Life

We are sending this River Safe message out to influential groups and networks in the Taupo/South Waikato area, asking them to pass the safety message on through their social media/ newsletters/ bulletin boards to customers and friends this summer.


Sadly, over the last ten years more people have died in preventable drowning incidents in rivers than any other aquatic environment in New Zealand. Mercury has been working with Water Safety NZ and other groups to help people stay safer in and around lakes and river and near our dams and structures.


We need your help! It’s about getting out there with simple messages reminding people “Respect the river – know the risks”. And “Be River Safe – Rivers are changeable and contain hidden dangers”.

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Be River Safe


Rivers are changeable and unpredictable and contain hidden dangers


Hashtags: #beriversafe #knowyourlimits #watersafetynz #drowningprevention


Key messages

We have 180,000 kilometres of rivers in New Zealand that are largely unpatrolled.

Over the last ten years more people have died in preventable drowning incidents in rivers than in any other aquatic environment.

2007 – 2017

206 in rivers

197 at beaches

171 offshore



Rivers change

If you are jumping into a river look before you leap. Check for hidden objects. Swimming holes can change depth summer to summer and currents can move objects underwater.

Near dams water levels and flows can change significantly throughout the day and massive flows may be released at any time.

After heavy rain river banks can become unstable and rivers can change dramatically. Stay well clear of a river in flood. Never try and cross a river in flood. Take a longer route. It could save your life.


 Rivers are powerful


There are strong currents and suction effects, and deep water especially near dams.


If you’re wading, wear a wading belt and a personal flotation device. A wading staff will give extra support and you can feel ahead for obstructions or changes in flow. Have someone with you for extra support and safety.

The pressure of moving water is constant and can be powerful even if the river looks slow moving and calm.

Never enter a river alone. If in doubt stay out.


Rivers can be unpredictable

Rivers are particularly dangerous after heavy rain and when in flood. Check the weather forecast and avoid rivers if heavy rain is forecast.

When rivers are in flood debris and fast flowing currents can cause banks to become unstable.

When swimming always enter a river with your feet first and establish an exit point beforehand. Check for hazards such as rapids downstream.

Swimmers often underestimate the power of a river and overestimate their abilities.


How to stay river safe when swimming:

  • Learn water safety skills, how to assess risk and how to swim.
  • Always swim as part of a group and get local knowledge.
  • Check for hazards both where you are swimming and downstream.
  • Do not mix swimming with alcohol or drugs.
  • Read and obey any warning signage


Remember the water safety code:

Be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.



Fishing safely in rivers and lakes


Do not enter the water if you are at all unsure. If in doubt, stay out! When wading rivers, take precautions and plan for the worst.

Wear a wading belt and a personal flotation device. Use caution when wading into deep water at river mouths, or making river or stream crossings.

Losing your footing when wading can be potentially hazardous and anglers can get into situations where injury or even death is a very real outcome.

All anglers should have a healthy respect for water and before heading out and should tell someone where they intend to fish and how long they intend to be.

It is not always necessary to wade in order to fish successfully. If you are unsure about your wading ability, and you lack confidence in the water, don't wade!

Look for suitable pools to fish that can be reached from the riverbank or by using thigh waders to go into the water to knee-depth. 

Linking arms with a fellow angler to cross a river will give you added stability, but you should proceed with caution. 

For more on river fishing safety go to https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/central-north-island/places/taupo-trout-fishery/how-to-fish/wading-safety/


Lake fishing safety (Boat)

Take two waterproof forms of communication and keep them within reach at all times.

Always check the weather forecast and wear a lifejacket that is fit for purpose and fits properly.

Avoid drugs and alcohol and be a responsible skipper – your passengers safety is your responsibility.

Service your boat to avoid engine failure and tell someone when you are going and when you expect to return.

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