Stay water safe

People new to this country are often amazed at how much the water is part of New Zealanders’ lives, whether at home, at the pool, on the beach or by a river.

Enjoying our beaches, rivers and pools this summer can be both fun and safe, especially if you follow a few basic safety tips.

Beach safety in New Zealand

Red Beach, Auckland

Learn to swim

It is important you and your children are able to swim, even if you are not actively involved in water sports. Unfortunately drowning is New Zealand’s third-highest cause of accidental death: approximately 120 deaths occur each year.

Swimming lessons are available for all ages and levels of ability. Swimming is enjoyable, low impact and one of the best types of exercise available. For more information, contact your local public swimming pool - usually through your local council.

Always supervise children near water

Keeping a watch on your children when they’re near water is the single most important precaution you can take. Parents know from experience how quickly children can do something unexpected.

Proper supervision in and around water means a responsible adult keeps young children in their care both within sight and within reach.

At the beach

Understanding how waves, wind and tides affect conditions at the beach is vital to keep yourself and others safe from danger.

Some beaches in New Zealand are patrolled by surf lifeguards. On patrolled beaches, surf lifeguards put up yellow and red flags. The area between the flags is constantly monitored and is the safest place to swim at the beach.

Lifeguards are there to help, so you should always listen to their advice. 

Find a patrolled beach near you

Recognising rips

A rip is a strong current of water running out to sea. They can be very dangerous to swimmers as they can sweep you out to sea quickly and easily.

To keep yourself safe, it is important to learn how to recognise rip currents. Typically they appear as calm patches of water with waves breaking on either side. 

How to recognise a rip

Other useful tips

  • Never swim alone
  • If in doubt, stay out of the water
  • Know your limits
  • Read and obey the safety signs
  • Never swim or surf when tired or cold
  • Consider other people in the sea
  • If you are in trouble, keep calm and raise your hand in the air. This is the signal to the lifeguards to say ‘I need help’. 

For more information about staying safe in the water, Water Safety NZ has a very informative website to help.

Safety advice and information | Water Safety NZ

Respect rivers

A basic understanding of rivers and a healthy respect for the power of moving water can help keep you safe.

When swimming in a river, always check for hazards (such as floating timber) up and down stream and avoid pools that run out into a stretch of rapidly moving water. Never jump or dive into a river without being sure of what’s below the surface, to avoid spinal or head injuries.

If you get caught in the current, don’t fight it, but head downstream to a suitable landing area.

Swimming pools

Swimming pools and spa pools are part of life for many New Zealanders. They provide wonderful opportunities for family and friends to get together and have fun, but you still need to be careful. Remember these tips:

  • The area close by a pool is often slippery – so walk, don’t run, around the pool.
  • Always obey the pool’s safety rules and listen to the instructions of lifeguards.
  • Play it safe. Depth can often be hard to judge, so avoid diving into a pool unless you know its deep enough, and remember to check for others before entering the water.

Enjoying New Zealand's sunshine

New Zealand’s sun can be very hot between 11am and 4pm during summer, when the ultraviolet rays are fierce, and it doesn’t take long for skin to become burned. Here are some quick tips for staying safe in the sun:

SLIP into a shirt — and SLIP into some shade, especially between 11am and 4pm.

SLOP on some sunscreen before going outdoors. Use an SPF30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen. Wipe it on at least 15 minutes before going outdoors – use approximately one teaspoon of sunscreen for each arm and leg, your body and your face. Reapply every two hours, and also after physical activity, swimming or towel drying.

SLAP on a hat with a brim or a cap with flaps.

WRAP on a pair of sunglasses. Choose close-fitting, wrap-around glasses.

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