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Water Safety New Zealand is pleased to be investing in locally driven drowning prevention intiatives in Waikato with a focus on primary school aquatic education, kaupapa Māori water safety programmes and intiatives in line with the BoP Regional Water Safety Strategy.

In 2018 66 people lost their lives in New Zealand in preventable* drowning incidents. This was the second lowest toll on record, but already this year there have been 55 preventable fatalities. The five year average (2014 – 2018) is 79. Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

There were 204 drowning related hospitalisations* in 2018. This is a 25 percent increase on 2017 and an 11 percent increase on the five year average of 181 (2013 – 2017).

Over the last ten years there have been 103 preventable drowning fatalities in Waikato. 20 of those were Maori. That’s 19% while Maori make up 15% of the population.

Last year there were six preventable fatalities in Waikato and the average over ten years is ten (2009 – 2018). In 2018 in Waikato there were 35 drowning related hospitalisations* up from 15 in 2017.

WSNZ believes the best way to tackle New Zealand’s drowning problem is through investment in grassroots education through our Water Skills for Life intiative for children in years 1 to 8.

This programme was designed by a team of experts backed by the latest international research as the most effective way to prevent fatal and non-fatal drownings. It gives children the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe in, on and around the water.

Water Skills for Life teaches children practical skills and how to assess risk so they have the tools they need to make smart decisions around water. WSNZ through CLM Otarahanga, CLM Waitomo, Te Ripo Tapui LTD and the Waipa Community Facilities Trust will deliver approximately 4500 school children in Waikato to participate in 10 Water Skills for Life lessons with a trained instructor.

WSNZ is also funding programmes that meet the goals of the Waikato Regional Water Safety Strategy. This strategy is community driven and identifies the priority work streams and investments requirement for water safety in the region.

WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says every region in New Zealand faces unique challenges in drowning prevention and solutions need to be community-led with real engagement at grassroots.

"We need a cultural shift in the way we approach water safety. We need communities to get involved and lead the change. Addressing these challenges requires engagement with community leaders who understand the issues. This includes engagement with iwi and Maori organisations in the Waikato” says Mills.

"Maori are overrepresented in Waikato drownings and over the past decade the Maori drowning rate in the Waikato was higher than the national average" says Mills.

This is why WSNZ is funding Aotearoa Water Patrol to deliver eight water safety wananga for 12 Waikato rangatahi aged 14-15 underpinned by mātauranga Māori and knowledge of local water conditions covering:

  • Lifejackets
  • Ocean rips
  • River Safety
  • Snorkelling
  • E.T.A (Weather, Equipment, Tell Someone, Ability)
  • Day Skippers Course

This will mean increased numbers of rangatahi Māori with practical water safety knowledge and an understanding of local water conditions. They will then be able to advocate and influence others on water safety.

WSNZ is also funding one full-day powerboat and personal watercraft wananga for 16 Waikato adults underpinned by mātauranga Māori. This will lead to increased numbers of adults with practical water safety knowledge on the operation of personal watercraft powerboats creating a cohort of Māori adults able to advocate and influence others on water safety.

Te Ripo Tapui LTD will also deliver Kia Maanu, Kia Ora Training Workshops/Wananga targeting Māori aged 16-60 in Raglan, Waikato, that includes:

  • VHF radio and Boat Safe
  • Dive Safety Instruction
  • Water Skills for Life

This will lead to increased practical knowledge of participants in use of VHF radio, lifejackets, recreational boats and water survival techniques. Participants will also gain increased knowledge of water safety hazards and increased confidence of participants about being role models for water safety.

Te Ripo Tapui LTD will also promote Kia Maanu, Kia Ora water safety messages and resources at the:

  • Waikato-Tainui Waka Regatta, Ngaruawāhia, March 2020
  • Māori Surfing Nationals, Bay of Plenty, 2020.

The will lead to increased awareness of water safety risks amongst Māori and improved knowledge about Māori water safety.

WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says new a new approach was needed to tackle the overrepresentaion of Maori in our drowning statistics. “We need to improve water safety outcomes for Māori and there was a real need for culturally appropriate interventions created and delivered by Māori for Māori.”


For media enquiries or to request an interview 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 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’.


Drowning prevention investment in Waikato

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