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Being safe near rivers

There are 180,000 kilometres of rivers across the country and there is nothing more fun than taking a picnic down to the river on a hot summer’s day for an afternoon family day of fun.  

A tranquil river can be very inviting however, the environment can change very quickly, and hidden dangers make the water’s unpredictable. 

Jumping in off rocks and cliffs is a fun pastime but it pays to check for hidden objects before you take the leap. Check the water level as well. Throw some stones in and see if they sink or get a stick or log to measure how deep the water is.  

Remember that the riverbed can change at the very least, each day and especially when there has been flooding. Underwater rocks, boulders and tree branches can shift, and hazards get pushed downstream altering the course of the river. Places which were once safe become dangerous. Swimming holes, which are once ok to dive into change rapidly and definitely season to season. 

Heaps of serious injuries have occurred with people jumping into rivers and not realising too late that the river is shallow. 

Riverbanks can become unstable and undermine during a flood. What looks good from the top can be unstable below and can be unable to bear the weight of people walking on it, resulting in a bank collapse.

Also, check the weather report too to make sure there is no heavy rain in the forecast. This is particularly important if your river or swimming hole is surrounded by hills which can lead to flash floods or they are an irrigation channel or river run off.

When swimming near dams, especially those around the central North Island where there are hydroelectric dams, water levels and flow can change significantly throughout the day and massive flows of water maybe released at any time, some without warning. 

Remember also that rivers have currents and fast flowing water that can be freezing so take care. 

With all this advice it is important to remember that being safe around the rivers is paramount but have fun as well and enjoy your environment.


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