Ahead of Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi weekends, Auckland council, emergency responders and associated partners have issued a safety warning for the region’s roads and waterways.
“Whether you’re staying at home in Tāmaki Makaurau over the long weekends or travelling around the motu – please, please, please stay safe,” says Councillor Alf Filipaina.
“We’ve had too many tragedies on our roads and on the water already this year and we want to see Aucklanders make it home safely.”
Inspector Trevor Beggs of Tāmaki Makaurau Police said whether you’re leaving the region or staying closer to home, take your time and be prepared.
“There are plenty of events happening across the region over both weekends. We want people to have a safe, relaxing weekend with their friends and family.”
“Police will be out there working hard to keep the community safe, but there are also easy steps people can take to help prevent a tragedy occurring.
“Things like – if you’re drinking, have a plan to get home safely, and look out for your friends.
“If you’re driving, drive sober. Allow extra time to get to your destination, drive to the conditions and be considerate towards other road users.
“And if you find yourself in an unsafe situation, call 111 and ask for Police.”
Fire and Emergency New Zealand Region Manager, Ron Devlin, agrees.
“Our firefighters are often first responders to medical and emergency incidents, and on so many occasions they see situations that might have been prevented if a little time and care were taken,” he says.
With conditions drying out around the country, the risk of devastating fire caused by something as small as a spark is also high, he said.
“The wildfire season has begun in earnest, with many regions currently in Prohibited or Restricted Fire Seasons.”
In Tāmaki Makaurau, a Prohibited Fire Season is in effect in the Hauraki Gulf Islands, which means a total ban on outdoor fires.
“Always check the local fire danger level before you light any type of fire – barbeque, campfire, burn-off, or the pizza oven. Visit checkitsalright.nz to see whether you need a fire permit or if there are any fire restrictions in place.”
AT’s Executive General Manager Safety and Vision Zero champion, Stacey van der Putten said emergency responders deal with too many preventable situations.
“Speed is the single biggest road safety issue in New Zealand today and speeding puts you and other road users at risk.“If you’re on the roads this (or next) holiday weekend, take your time, stay well within the speed limit and drive to the conditions,” she said.
“Take care of your driver too, make sure they’re well-rested and not distracted while driving, and we’ll all get home safe.”
Drowning Prevention Auckland’s Chief Executive, Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says Tāmaki Makaurau has some of the most beautiful water environments in New Zealand but the region’s waterways can also be the cause of tragedy.
“We urge everyone to think about water safety these long weekends and prepare for each specific visit to the water. Learn about the local hazards, and ensure you have the water competence to cope with the risks of each environment,” said Ms Keen-Biggelaar.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s Chief Executive, Matt Williams says the key to a safe trip to the beach is making sure you swim between the flags at a patrolled beach during patrol hours.
“The conditions around our northern coastlines change quickly and that is why it is always important to check Safeswim before planning a trip to the beach,” he said.
“All of this information on current conditions and patrol times is at your fingertips on the Safeswim website. Which is why, besides the lifeguards, Safeswim is the best way to keep yourself safe at the beach this summer.”
Visit Safeswim for up to the minute information on water quality, tide and swimming conditions – including where lifeguards are on duty – before heading out to your favourite spots.
Cr Filipaina warns most regional park beaches aren’t patrolled by lifeguards.
“So know your limits – beyond a paddle or splash about in the shallows, it’s best to follow Surf Lifesaving’s advice, ‘If in doubt, don’t go out’, and head to a lifeguarded beach instead.”
“Packing a picnic, planning a bush walk or loading up the mountain bike and are all great ways to spend the day exploring Tāmaki Makaurau.”
Auckland’s Harbourmaster and Coastguard also have a message for boaties to ensure they too come home safely from trips over the holiday weekends.
“Lifejackets save lives, it’s that simple,” says Harbourmaster Andrew Hayton.
Coastguard New Zealand CEO, Callum Gillespie echoes the common sense approach to safety, explaining boaties can take simple steps to enjoy the region’s beautiful beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes, safely and with confidence.
“This starts with having correctly fitted lifejackets for everyone on board, taking them and wearing them – they’ve never ruined a day out on the water,” he said.
“Additionally, given Auckland’s changeable marine weather, keep an eye on the forecast before and during your adventure. You can do this on the free Coastguard App while also logging a trip report with us, so we know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
“Lastly, don’t forget at least two forms of waterproof communication. A charged mobile phone in a drybag and working VHF radio is a great start, but we recommend boaties also a carry an EPIRB or PLB in case of emergency – these can save your life.”
Please come home this weekend…“Police, paramedics, firefighters, lifeguards and all of our emergency responders are truly special people, heroically responding to some of the most difficult and traumatic situations there are,” says Cr Filipaina.
“Please take the time to plan safe journeys this weekend, take care on or in the water, and come home safely to your whanau.”