Last Summer, nineteen Maoris lost their lives through drowning. Six were children of under five years, a further six were between five and ten and three between ten and fifteen years of age. Statistics tell us that most Maori drownings occur in rivers, lakes and lagoons (13 out of 19) and that there were three drownings in the open seas.
Rivers where Maoris were drowned last year were the Whanganui, Arahura, Waikato, Kaupakonui, Hikurangi, Whangachu and Awatiri.
We are told that a Maori is over three times as likely to meet death through drowning as a pakeha. One boy, aged nine, went swimming with six other children; they were away an hour and he was not with the party when it returned. He was unable to swim and was discovered in about ten feet of water that same afternoon. A girl of nineteen months lived about a chain from the sea. One afternoon the child was brought unconscious from the beach by her mother. Artificial respiration was applied without success. Another case was that of four boys who all drowned after stumbling into a deep hole while bathing in shallow water in Lake Rotorua.
How can these very sad happenings be avoided? The National Prevent Drowning Committee suggests as the most important remedy, learning to swim. None of the children in the examples mentioned were able to swim. The next important thing is to be water wise. Parents should warn children of the dangers in the water. They should have someone, even if only an older child, charged with responsibility to watch the children in the water and see that they only do what is safe. Waterholes should be covered if children are likely to play near them.