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The Water Safety Code provides important information to follow when enjoying recreational activities in and around the water:

1Be prepared

Learn to swim and survive and set rules for safe play in the water. Always use safe and correct equipment. Know the weather and water conditions before you get in.

Always check your surroundings and the conditions before entering the water. Check for potential dangers, and make sure you are confident in your ability to swim in the area around you, especially if the conditions or weather was to change. Floatation devices and lifejackets should be used for activities on the water, especially on childeren and for anyone who is not strong or confident in the water.

Find out more about taking swimming lessons from Water Safety New Zealand.

2Watch out for yourself and others

Always pay close attention to children you are supervising in or near water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.

Be aware of those around you in the water. If anyone is showing signs of distress, if they seem to be under for too long or if you lose sight of friends or family while recreating in or around water, it is important to check on them to make sure they are ok. Likewise, remain aware of your own swimming capability and the area or conditions that you're swimming in. Have fun, but always remain alert and don't push yourself beyond your own level of comfort.

3Be aware of the dangers

Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags. Do not enter the water after drinking alcohol.

Recreating in and around lakes, rivers the ocean and even in swiming pools can have it's dangers. Additional to your swimming capability and your physical state, you must be mindful of the dangers at each area of water you are recreating in or on, as these can change unexpectedly. 

You should always be mindful of dangers, including:

4Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger. 

Even strong swimmers can be caught out by the dangers in water environments such as rips, waves and unexpected changes in the depth or shallowness of water. Enjoy water recreation within your limits, and don't feel pressured to swim or recreate in or around water if you are uncomfortable, or are concerned about potential dangers. Have fun, but always behave responsibly by respecting the water, your limits and the limits of others. 

When considering your limits, think about:



Swimming is a great recreational activity, with so many wonderful beaches, rivers and lakes around the country. It's important to follow the Water Safety Code at all times, and remember that while our waters are beautiful and great fun, there can be dangers in all swimming locations that you must be mindful of, such as: rips at beaches that can pull you away from the shoreline, hidden objects under the water in rivers and lakes, and deceptively-powerful water movement in rivers than can sweep you downstream or under.

Learn more about safely enjoying beaches and rivers in the useful links to the left.

Key contacts for swimming information:

  • Watersafety New Zealand - provides significant resources and awareness relating to water-based activities, including swimming.
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand - provides a national lifeguard service on selected beaches on behalf of central and regional government.

Always follow the Water Safety Code when diving or snorkelling.

Ensure you follow basic safety requirements such as carrying a signalling device and using dive flags, which are a legal requirement. Diving and snorkelling is best undertaken following professional training. Decompression illness can occur when diving or rising too quickly, and proper training is required to ensure your safety. Make sure you always have a dive plan, and maintain your equipment regularly and never dive on your own, for safety reasons.

You must ensure you are physically capeable prior to diving, and a medical assessment is recommended by Water Safety New Zealand for those over 45 years old, in particular.

Learn more about safely diving or snorkelling using the useful links to the left.

Key contacts for diving and snorkelling:

  • New Zealand Underwater Association - get snorkelling and diving training through the New Zealand Underwater Association, find out best practice on the water and contact emergency diving support.
  • Watersafety New Zealand - provides significant resources and awareness relating to water-based activities.
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand - provides a national lifeguard service on selected beaches on behalf of central and regional government.

Paddle crafts and floats include kayaks and canoes, surfboards, paddleboards and even inflatable floaties. You should always ensure that the craft you are on is only used on waters suitable to the limitations of the craft and it's durability, never leave childeren unattended using flotation devices on or near the water, and expect that no matter what kind device is being used, the chances of falling in to the water and needing to paddle or swim are high - so it's important to be mindful of your own abilities and always follow the Water Safety Code (above).

There are important links on the left that include information about specific floatation devices.

Small boats 

Small boats are required to follow boating rules in New Zealand waters, including by-laws. It is important to follow the Boating Safety Code and to be aware of changeable weather conditions. Find out more in the Boating section.

Key contacts for paddlecrafts and floats:

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