Full force on water watch this Australia Day

NSW Gov

Water safety authorities will be out in force as Australia Day celebrations kick off, with people heading to beaches, rivers and waterways urged to take extra care after a record number of rescues over the school holiday period.

Minister for Transport, Veterans and Western Sydney David Elliott said more than one million people were expected to descend on the State’s waterways over Australia Day and the weekend.

“The last time we had an unofficial four day long weekend over this period, we saw 1.5 million people turn out to enjoy everything our State’s waterways and coastline have to offer,” Mr Elliott said.

“We want people to have a pleasant day out celebrating Australia Day, but safety is a shared responsibility and it’s essential that everyone acts sensibly to safely make it home.”

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said the 2022-23 summer period is officially the busiest on record for volunteer lifesavers.

“Our more than 20,000 volunteers have done an incredible job watching over our 129 patrolled beaches, with more than 1,900 rescues carried out since December 1,” Ms Cooke said.

“Australia Day and New Year’s Day are the two of the most dangerous days of the year at our beaches, and drownings can often be prevented by taking simple precautions like swimming at patrolled locations and between the red and yellow flags, supervising children and never swimming under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce said there have already been too many lives lost at beaches this summer.

“We want everyone to enjoy a great Australia Day on the beach. Lifesavers and lifeguards will be out in force to protect people, but if we can’t see you, we can’t save you. Please swim at a patrolled location between the red and yellow flags,” Mr Pearce said.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos said a few simple actions by boaters may make the difference between a great Australia Day and a potentially life-threatening emergency.

“Before you head out, check the weather conditions, carry the required safety equipment, always wear a lifejacket and most importantly Log On via the Marine Rescue app or marine radio VHF Channel 16,” Commissioner Tannos said.

NSW Maritime Executive Director Mark Hutchings said nearly 13,500 vessel checks have been carried out since the start of summer.

“The biggest issue NSW Maritime is seeing this summer is people not using lifejackets. We’ve seen many boating-related incidents, including capsizes, collisions, boat fires, serious injuries and, tragically, lives lost. Know your limits on the water, plan, prepare and predict before you head out, and always wear a lifejacket,” Mr Hutchings said.

Marine Area Command Detective Superintendent Murray Reynolds said it’s essential to know the conditions and possible hazards before venturing out to the beach, river or lake.

“Many waterways can have hidden dangers, whether it’s depth, current, temperature or submerged objects, so it’s important to check before you get in or you might be caught out. It’s also important to know your own capabilities and if you’ve been drinking, don’t go swimming,” Detective Superintendent Reynolds said.

Since the beginning of summer:

  • Surf Life Saving NSW has carried out 1,930 rescues and has been involved in 35 ‘near fatal drowning’ incidents, while 13 lives have been lost.
  • Marine Rescue NSW has carried out a record 1,039 rescue missions and helped 2,493 boaters return to shore.
  • NSW Maritime has carried out 13,445 vessel checks resulting in 668 fines and 1,777 official warnings.
  • The Marine Area Command has carried out 4,108 random breath tests and 5,349 safety inspections, and has issued 260 infringement notices and 624 formal warnings.

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