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Jonathan Milne makes some genuine comments in his opinion piece on wharf jumping and our Kiwi culture around water.

I’m not in the habit of going on record making bizarre comments, at least not in relation to drowning fatalities and injuries related to water! I want to enter the discussion as I genuinely feel comments I made have been printed out of context in relation to this piece. My comments around a more diverse population, our Kiwi culture and the need to educate around water safety were made in relation to the general drowning problem we have in Aotearoa, not specifically to wharf jumping. Drowning remains the fourth highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand and we hold the unenviable position of having one of the highest preventable drowning tolls in the developed world.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of too much bureaucracy, nor wrapping our kids in cotton wool. I think it’s a reflection of modern day society. Bureaucracy will never replace common sense in my view. Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is not a bureaucratic organisation, nor a Government Agency. We’re a NFP Incorporated Society, made up of like-minded members with our sole motivation being drowning prevention.

We’re not the fun police. Quite the opposite, we want all Kiwis and visitors to this country to enjoy the water in whatever way, shape or form they like. We support and encourage all forms of safe water based activity. We simply want people to come home safely to their families at the end of the day.

Wharf jumping (and other types of jumping) is just one type of activity that many Kiwi’s partake in. The vast majority of us play in the water in some way, shape or form and long may that continue. It’s part of who we are and what defines us to a certain extent. We’re an island nation. I myself grew up near the water and did a heap of boating, swimming and fishing; as well as my fair share of wharf jumping! I don’t think we should be telling people what not to do, or telling them ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. At WSNZ, we just want people (particularly males!) to check things out, including themselves, before they make decisions around water. I mean that in a broad sense, depending on the situation or activity. We’re about education and awareness, not trying to stop people enjoying our waterways. In fact, we’re lending our support to the NZ Bomb competition being held in Taupo this summer.

My comments in relation to a diverse population are in relation to the changing face of the drowning problem. It’s true and it’s coming through in the drowning stats. The numbers who identify with different ethnicities is widening and it’s a reflection of modern day New Zealand. It doesn’t relate to wharf jumping specifically. The number of drowning deaths in relation to wharf jumping aren’t skyrocketing. What is skyrocketing is the number of injuries and hospitalisations from water based activities generally, and Jonathan makes mention of this in his opinion piece.

Good on you Jonathan for raising this topic. Your opinion piece is valid. Signage is one good and quick solution. I just want to provide some clarity and context from my perspective. Happy to pick up the phone and chat any time.

Jonty Mills

Chief Executive

Water Safety NZ



Jonty Mills – CEO

Jonty joined Water Safety New Zealand in 2016. Previously he had spent more than 20 years in communications and external affairs leadership, operations and business development roles. He brings expertise in stakeholder management to CEO and ministerial level, with a blend of private and public sector experience.   A long-standing member of BP's Senior Leadership team and media spokesperson Jonty has a background of leadership roles in marketing, operations and business development across commercial and retail business channels.  During his time at BP, he was responsible for managing the company’s community partnerships – including Surf Life Saving New Zealand, Young Enterprise Trust and Royal Society of New Zealand – and has experience in advocacy as the interface between BP and central and local Government. He also helped embed safety as the number one priority and value across the organisation and is a strong advocate for Water Safety New Zealand’s core values and strategic direction.   027 478 1836 

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills responds to a Sunday Star Times opinion piece

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