Kiwis urged to play it safe when swimming after four drown over holiday period

Swimmers are being warned to be aware of their own limitations and of the particular conditions at the beach they are swimming at.

Four people drowned over the holiday period and while that is fewer than the 5-year average of 8 a year, Jonty Mills from Water Safety New Zealand says any preventable drowning is one too many.

He said many of the country's waterways were beautiful to visit, but the conditions can be unpredictable and unforgiving, and those swimming at remote locations should ensure they werewell aware of the conditions there.

Mr Mills said swimmers should also be aware of what to do if they find themselves caught in a rip.

"Rather than panicking and trying to fight the rip, you should float on your back, regulate your breathing and try and attract help," he said.

Jonty Mills says people who are not good swimmers should also be aware of their limitations before diving in to save someone else.

"The natural instinct is to jump in and help, but the key message is around being able to alert someone or call police or emergency services and try and find a flotation device to throw to the person in trouble and only try to help them if you are a strong swimmer yourself.

Jonty Mills says often in those situations, unfortunately, it's the rescuer who drowns as opposed to the person in trouble, so it's important to stop and think about that before diving in to help others.

Muriwai, New Zealand -  January 2 2015: New Zealand woman Lifeguard on duty watches swimmers in the sea. New Zealand has the 3rd highest drowning rate in the developed world. In 2013, 98 people drowned in New Zealand waters.
Lifeguard on patrol at Muriwai Beach, Auckland. Source: