12 Jan 2017

'Kiwi macho attitude' blamed for spike in drownings

8:47 am on 12 January 2017

There's been a dramatic rise in the number of river drownings, according to the latest water safety figures.

Eighty-one people drowned in the country's waters last year.

Waikato River

Waikato River Photo: 123rf

Of those, 24 people drowned in rivers - a figure 60 percent higher than the five-year average and more than double the record low of 10 in 2012.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said the figures highlighted the need to be vigilant around rivers, which could be remote and changeable.

"It's certainly a spike," he said.

Mr Mills said drowning was a disproportionately male issue - men make up 85 percent of the deaths.

The "Kiwi macho attitude" was a deadly one. Men overestimated their abilities and underestimate the risk when it came to water.

The Waikato River was a "high risk location", he said.

Recent drowning victims there included Brent Christoffersen, 32, who disappeared near the Huka Falls on 23 November, and Anthony Chanpraseuth, 31, who drowned on 4 December.

A huge amount of work was needed to bring down the drowning toll, Mr Mills said.