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Published: 2014-10-16 00:00:00

There’s a bit of a myth that drowning is a “gentle” way to die.

“Truth is, it’s horrible, both physically and mentally – one of the last things you’d want to happen to your children, your partner, your friends, yourself,” says Waikato Regional Council maritime services manager Nicole Botherway

“Research shows people hold their breath for about 87 seconds until a ‘breaking point’ is reached and start to inhale water. Death by drowning occurs as the body shuts down after that. So there’s nothing quick, easy or gentle about it. Drowning is the third highest cause of unintentional death in New Zealand and the council and partner agencies want people to do all they can to avoid it,” said Mrs Botherway.

Preventing drowning is one of the main aims of Safer Boating Week which runs from Friday 17 October till 24 October.

“Our maritime services team is determined to help prevent these tragedies and injuries. We urge all boaties and other water users to follow relevant safety rules. Wearing appropriate lifejackets is one of the best ways people can keep themselves, and their families and friends safe. The risks of drowning or injury are too great to be complacent about doing the right thing,” said Mrs Botherway.

Waikato Regional Council has been working closely with others in recent years to make it easier for boaties to keep themselves safe.

In August this year, the maritime services team won a national award for its boat safety work for the region and New Zealand. The award recognised the council’s role in the launch of Marine Mate, a free smart phone app, which gives water users across New Zealand easy access to a variety of good information they will need when heading out on to the water.

The app’s development was led by Mrs Botherway, with funding from Maritime NZ, the ACC, Land Information NZ, other regional councils, and with support from Water Safety New Zealand.

The award also recognised the production of five films with information for boaties on how to safely make bar crossings. The council worked with Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Coastguard, ACC, Maritime NZ, Water Safety NZ and Coastguard Boating Education to produce the films, released in the past few months, showing how to cross bars at Raglan, Tairua, Bowentown and Kaituna.

Marine Mate is close to 20,000 downloads after being released at the end of last year, and there have been 13,424 views over the past few months of the bar crossing films on YouTube.

People can download Marine Mate for free from the app store for their device.

A generic bar crossing film is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNTk2IejfFE

All the films are linked at: www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/barcrossing.

“The app and bar crossing films are really great tools for Waikato boaties. We strongly encourage people to use these freely available resources,” said Mrs Botherway.

“Skippers have a responsibility to keep everyone safe on their boat and there’s no excuse for not being able to access the wide range of relevant safety information to help them do just that.”