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Water Safety New Zealand is investing $2million in water safety interventions in its 2019/20 Funding Round.

Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand. In 2018 there were 66 preventable drowning fatalities. The five year average (2013 – 2017) is 82.

New Zealand’s drowning rate per 100,000 of population is twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK, and over the past ten years the cost of drowning deaths and injuries is in the order of $4.79 billion

WSNZ’s annual contestable Funding Round is primarily funded by the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board with additional funds from ACC and corporate partners The Warehouse and Protector Aluminium and trusts and foundations.

This year 96 applications were received which requested total funding of $5,219,766. This is over double the number of applications received last year when 43 applications were considered which requested total funding of $1,892,743.

“This is a reflection of what we are seeing in aquatic recreation: an increasing population, increasing participation and increasing demand for water safety education” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills.

“While we would like to fund everything we’ve had to make some hard calls and focus on priority areas. We would like to thank everyone who applied” says Mills.

The $2,044,260 in total funding has been allocated based on these five areas of focus:

  1. Drowning prevention programmes provided by national organisations which include Coastguard Boating Education, Surf Life Saving NZ, Swimming NZ and Plunket.
  2. The provision of water survival competencies to children in primary schools with Water Skills for Life.
  3. Māori drowning prevention.
  4. Water safety in high risks areas of Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, and
  5. Other projects that address high risk groups activities and environments, including innovation and value-adding opportunities.

WSNZ is grateful for the corporate sponsorship provided by commercial partner The Warehouse which supports Water Skills for Life, and from Protector Aluminium which supports water safety around the home and specifically promoting active adult supervision of the under-fives.

WSNZ’s work with Plunket will again be focused on the ‘safety message’ bathmat project which has been an effective tool in targeting under-five fatalities at bath time.

This project delivers slip preventing bathmats to parents to make bath time safer. Plunket nurses also talk to parents about the importance of constant active adult supervision of our under-fives around water at all times, and the mats themselves have the message printed on them.

Between 1993 and 2012 there were 31 preventable fatalities involving under-fives in the bath – an average of two a year.

The bathmat project was first funded in 2011, and between 2013 and 2018 the total number of preventable fatalities involving under-fives in the bath was three.

“This project has been an effective intervention in reducing fatalities of our under-fives at bath time, as we work to our goal of zero drownings of under-fives set in our Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020” says Jonty Mills.

“Every preventable drowning fatality is a tragedy for a family and a community, and the bathmat project shows that sustained targeted funding in the right areas can make a difference.”

Annually around 50,000 bathmats are delivered into the homes of new babies.


For media enquiries please call Ben Christie on 021770285 or email

*Preventable drowning fatalities are those where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) while non-preventable drowning deaths include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death).

*Non-fatal drownings that result in a stay in hospital of 24 hours or longer are classified as ‘hospitalisations’.

$2million invested in drowning prevention but demand on the rise.

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