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Under Fives Policy

One of the leading causes of death for the Under-Fives in Aotearoa New Zealand is drowning. Most of these deaths occur in and around the home and are the result of inadequate supervision and unrestricted access to water.

Aotearoa New Zealand has a comparatively high rate of Under-Fives drowning fatalities internationally and Maori are disproportionately affected.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is seeking to eliminate preventable drowning for the under-five’s cohort in Aotearoa New Zealand (i.e. achieve an annual under-five drowning toll of zero). The approach to drowning prevention for the Under-Fives is based on using human development theory to segment this cohort into three smaller sub-groups. The risk profile for each of these sub-groups shifts from the ages of zero to five years, and different initiatives are needed to address these
different risks.

Babies - under 18 months

Biggest Risk– baths.

Current initiative: The bathmat campaign undertaken in conjunction with Plunket. The aim of which is to increase drowning prevention knowledge of families at the point of key risk for pre-walking babies. WSNZ is looking to expand this initiative by improving geographical coverage of current provider and recruiting new providers to reach priority, at risk groups. WSNZ is also seeking greater awareness and alignment with interventions for the Under-Fives by health and education agencies.

Toddlers - 18 months to three years

Biggest Risk - home pools and other bodies of water on the property.

Current initiative: Eight ways marketing campaign which focuses on educating and raising awareness amongst parents and caregivers of the importance of eight key water safety points. WSNZ is looking to expand this initiative by partnering with public health agencies and corporates on existing and new social marketing initiatives which would enable greater reach and recall.

Preschoolers- three to five years

Biggest Risk– home pools and bodies of water outside the property.

Current initiative: Fencing of home pools legislation which provides that residential pools must have physical barriers that restrict access by unsupervised children under five years of age. WSNZ is looking to expand this initiative by advocating at the local government level, and through a water hazard awareness campaign, for the greater use of barriers around water races, effluent ponds and other water hazards commonly found in rural New Zealand.

WSNZ is also seeking to expand the delivery of foundational water skills education, as a precursor to learning Water Skills for Life. It is proposed that WSNZ advocate for having foundational water skills included as part of the ECE curriculum and encourage parents and caregivers to learn water safety education and techniques.

WSNZ is developing an Under-Fives Action Plan that includes the highest value-adding, feasible initiatives and that this plan be promoted to potential funders, delivery partners and collaborators. Some of these actions are included in Wai Ora Aotearoa: Water Safety Sector Strategy 2025. 

Read the full policy document here


Under Fives Policy

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