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The water safety sector is launching Wai ora Aotearoa: Navigating to a safer future. New Zealand Water Safety Sector Strategy 2025 – with a Māori worldview central to the document’s vision and mission.

Wai ora Aotearoa: Navigating to a safer future is the sector’s collective approach to ensure everyone connects to and enjoys the water safely, and The Wai Puna model developed by Dr Chanel Phillips (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) from the University of Otago underpins its outlook.

“Wai Puna is an evidence-based model that is grounded on the importance of strengthening people’s connection to the water for positive health outcomes and subsequently improving water safety knowledge, attitudes and behaviour,” says Dr Phillips.

The three pillars of Wai Puna encapsulates the importance of strengthening connection to water through Whakapapa: Attitudes & Beliefs, Mātauranga: Knowledge and Tikanga: Behaviour.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document. The water safety sector is committed to upholding the mana of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the principles of Partnership, Protection and Participation in order to obtain better water safety outcomes for Māori.

The sector is committed to partnership with tangata whenua and the protection of Māori culture and taonga. We value the distinctive point of view that tangata whenua bring to strengthen the connection to water and the crucial role of water safety and safeguarding the lives of Māori whānau and communities. We believe a strong bi-cultural foundation is critical to our national identity and wellbeing.

From a Wai Puna approach, water safety is not merely about teaching water skills alone. It starts with a deeper understanding and respect for wai, an understanding inherent for Māori, that can also lead to the provision of more purposeful drowning prevention for all New Zealanders.

Water Safety New Zealand is currently in the process of formally partnering with the Wai Puna Kaihautū Leadership Rōpū of Coastal People: Southern Skies Centre
of Research Excellence based at the University of Otago. The water safety sector is committed to supporting greater use of a kaupapa Māori approach to water safety for tangata whenua.

We value the need for culturally distinctive pathways that enable tangata moana (people of the sea) and all New Zealanders to participate and understand the critical link between water safety and Māori Mātauranga: Knowledge.


Wai ora Aotearoa 2025 and Wai Puna

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