MEDIA RELEASE: Severe weather, Omicron, public holiday: Stay safe this Waitangi weekend
Kiwis planning to go outdoors on land or into the water this Waitangi weekend should take the time to learn about the destination and understand the impact MetService weather warnings, says two of the country’s national outdoor safety organisations.
MEDIA RELEASE: 3 FEBRUARY 2022
The NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) encourage people to enjoy the country’s tracks, mountains, rivers and beaches, but are urging a conscious safety approach this weekend. As Omicron circulates in the community and the current weather system rolling across the country means making a good plan, and taking extra precautions is as important as ever.
Every Waitangi weekend New Zealand’s walking and tramping tracks, rivers and beaches are well explored by Kiwis, but no matter your activities, choosing a destination that is suitable for the whole group is really important, they say.
MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says that Waitangi weekend is traditionally one of the most popular long weekends for outdoor adventures on both land and in the water.
“We see thousands of walkers and trampers setting out on planned multi-day trips, or their local favourite tracks and over the past decade, there have been twice as many tramping injuries and search and rescue call outs during Waitangi Weekend compared to a typical weekend,” Daisley says.
Unfortunately, the tramping community has seen its first fatality for 2022 on Tuesday after a male tramper’s body was recovered from the remote Mt Adams Wilderness Area in the West Coast.
Daisley says this tragic death is a timely reminder to prioritise a safety first approach this long weekend, and that includes factoring in the increasing spread of community Covid-19 cases and the extreme weather events currently impacting both the North and South islands.
By using MSC’s new app, Plan My Walk, trampers at any level can find, plan and prepare for a day walk, overnight or multi-day walk in New Zealand. Users can access track alerts and MetService weather warnings to further aid in their planning and decision-making.
Another Kiwi favourite during the warmers days is cooling down in a nearby river, beach, or lake. However, the recent Christmas and New Year period was a dark time for drownings in New Zealand with a total of 15 lives lost, with an annual total of 74 for 2021.
WSNZ Chief Executive Daniel Gerrard says drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.
“New Zealanders love to play in the water, but there is always risk. We all need to be aware of and think, for a few minutes, about water safety before heading to the water. It could save your or your loved one’s lives.”
WSNZ says that underestimating the risks and overestimating ability are the biggest mistakes people make when they’re in the water.
“Remember the water safety code. Be prepared, watch out for yourself and each other, be aware of the dangers and know your limits,” Daniel Gerrard says.
Special note regarding the West Coast weather warnings
MSC and WSNZ are advising anyone with outdoor recreation plans across the South Island, in particular the West Coast, Tasman and South Westland to postpone planned trips as MetService has issued multiple severe weather warnings.
Additionally, anyone in neighbouring regions, in particular Canterbury, Otago, Tasman and Marlborough should approach rivers with extreme caution. Heavy rain in the headwaters of river catchments will cause rivers to rise significantly making river crossings extremely dangerous. Trampers and hunters are urged to avoid river crossings during this period. High river levels are likely to last well through Waitangi weekend.
Refer to the New Zealand Land Safety Code:
- Choose the right trip for you: Learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it.
- Understand the weather: It can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed.
- Pack warm clothes and extra food: Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.
- Share your plans and take ways to get help: Telling a trusted friend your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life.
- Take care of yourself and each other: Eat, drink and rest, stick with your group and make decisions together.
Refer to the Water Safety Code:
- Be Prepared
2. Watch out for yourself and others
3. Be aware of the dangers
4. Know your limits