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A group of local community leaders brought together by Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) will meet tomorrow for the first time to set the vision for a new water safety strategy for the Bay of Plenty.

WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says every region in New Zealand faces it’s own unique challenges when it comes to drowning prevention and the way forward is for the solutions to be community led with real engagement at a grassroots level.

“Despite all the efforts from everyone over the last 10 years, the drowning toll isn’t coming down. Something has to change. We need a cultural shift in the way we approach water safety. We need communities to get involved and lead the change.”

This emphasis on collaboration and delivery at a regional level is a reflection of widespread agreement amongst water safety sector stakeholders that ‘business as usual’ will not achieve the desired water safety outcomes.

There were 12 preventable drowning fatalities in Bay of Plenty last year up from 7 in 2016, the 2nd highest toll behind Auckland’s 22 preventable fatalities.

Jonty Mills says engagement with iwi and Maori organisations in Bay of Plenty is crucial to the strategy’s success. “Maori are overrepresented in Bay of Plenty drownings. Between 2007-16 the Maori drowning rate in Bay of Plenty was higher than the national average. This requires engagement with community leaders who understand the issues.”

 The governance group set up by WSNZ to lead the strategy in Bay of Plenty is made up of:

  • Cr Kevin Winters – BOP Regional Council
  • Shirley Baker – Sport BOP Board Member
  • Jonty Mills – WSNZ CEO
  • Reon Tuanau – Te Runanga o Ngai te Rangi Iwi Trust
  • Mark Hemmingway – NZ Sport Fishing Council Board Member
  • Chris Emmett – Surf Life Saving Regional Manager – Eastern Region

The four main activity areas the strategy will focus on are Water safety skills development, Recreational boating safety, Fresh water safety and Beach and ocean safety. These activities have different challenges as well as different stakeholders. The final plan will be tailored to the specific circumstances of Bay of Plenty and will identify the priority initiatives and investment priorities for each activity area.

Jonty Mills says over the next 2-3 years WSNZ will develop a series of regional water safety strategies across New Zealand by direct engagement with regional organisations.

“The objective is to develop coordinated and collaborative action plans to help reduce drowning deaths and injuries, and build a culture of safe enjoyment around water” says Mills.

Media are invited to attend discussion forums to inform the strategy will also be held in Tauranga on Mon May 28th, Rotorua Tues May 29th and Whakatane Wed May 30th.

These will be where all people interested in water safety in those regions can come and discuss in more depth the challenges, issues and opportunities in Bay of Plenty.

Registration to attend the forums is required and you can do so on the WSNZ website and also read more about the BOP strategy here:

The information collected from these forums will then be fed back to the governance group which will inform the development of the strategy.

Tauranga WorkshopMonday May 28th - 09:00 to 13:00 (Classic Flyers, Tauranga Airport, Mount Maunganui)

Rotorua WorkshopTuesday May 29th - 09:00 to 13:00 (Te Puia, Hemo Rd, Tihiotonga, Rotorua)

Whakatane/Ohope/Kawerau WorkshopWednesday May 30th - 09:00 to 13:00 (Surf & Sand, 361 Harbour Road, Ohope Beach)


For media enquiries call Ben Christie on 021770285


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 

A new approach to reduce drownings in Bay of Plenty

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