Lifeguards launch patrol season with safety message after 105 people drowned in NZ last year

Lifeguards have started their patrol season at New Zealand beaches this weekend, with a message for swimmers that staying safe can be simple.

Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand. Last year, 105 people drowned and 92 of those deaths were preventable.

"What we're asking the public to do is come down, engage with the lifeguards, listen to their advice and follow their safety information," Allan Mundy of Surf Life Saving New Zealand told 1 NEWS.

And it's really quite simple -  choose the right beach, swim between the flags, don't swim alone and watch out for rips.

"We all can swim. But what we don't do well is swim for a long period of time. And if you get caught in one of those rips you need to swim for a good 200 metres to get yourself to safety," Mr Mundy said.

But it's a message often ignored, says Donal Boyle, chairman of the Omanu Surfclub at Mount Maunganui.

"It is frustrating seeing people out there taking on the elements, and not having the confidence," Mr Boyle said.

"The sea's a wonderful thing but we must respect it. if you're near a patrolled beach make the effort to get there and swim between the flag."

Last season lifeguards put in 230,000 patrolling hours on beaches, making more than 1000 life-threatening rescues and rescuing another 2300 people from dangerous situations.

More support could be on the horizon for surf lifesaver, with discussions underway with the Government over funding.

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Those on the frontline say staying safe at the beach can be simple. Source: 1 NEWS

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