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Rivers, bridges and lakes

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 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 week to week 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 undermined below and can be unable to bear the weight 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. 

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

Don’t forget to have fun though! 

Swimming in an open body of water (like a river, lake, or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. Even kids who are good swimmers need to take care.

First, teach kids never to swim alone. Tell them that using the buddy system means there's always someone looking out for you. When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in an emergency.

Here are some tips based on the type of water:

At Lakes and Ponds

  • Don't let kids swim without adult supervision. Lakes or ponds might be shallow near the bank, but get deep quickly away from shore.
  • Ponds and lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken glass, trash, and weeds and grass that could entangle a leg or arm.
  • Be mindful of potentially dangerous wildlife, such as snakes and alligators.
  • Make sure kids wear foot protection. In the water, they should wear aqua socks or water shoes.
  • Most boating accidents, particularly among teens, are alcohol-related. Any boat outing should include a designated driver who won't drink. Be sure teens know about the dangers of alcohol, on and off the water.
  • In bad weather, they should get out of the water right away.



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