skip to main content

Water Safety New Zealand is pleased to be investing in locally driven drowning prevention intiatives in Gisborne/East Coast with a focus on primary school aquatic education and kaupapa Maori water safety programmes.

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.

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).

12 of the preventable fatalities in 2018 were Maori or 18% while Maori make up 16.5% of the population.

Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

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 the Swim for Life Tairawhiti Charitable Trust is funding 3,250 primary school children in Tairawhiti to participate in 10 Water Skills for Life lessons with a trained instructor.

Also teachers from 35 schools will be offered professional development by Swimming NZ so they feel confident to deliver quality water skills education.

WSNZ also has a new funding partnership with ACC for a kaupapa Maori approach to drowning prevention interventions.

Through this WSNZ is funding Birds Eye View Consultancy and its Planting the Seed project to deliver a pilot kaupapa Māori swimming programme to 1-6 students from Waikirikiri School in Kaiti.

WSNZ is looking to improve accessibility to culturally appropriate swimming lessons for Māori students in Kaiti by recognising the importance of kaupapa Māori, and by incorporating local knowledge, ancestral stories and traditions for culturally relevant delivery.

ACC via WSNZ is also funding the continuation and expansion of the work of Ngāti Porou Surf Life Saving Club and its water safety work, including ongoing recruitment from the community from Hicks Bay, Te Araroa, Ruatoria, Tokomaru Bay, Kaiti and Gisborne.

Through this funding NPSLSC will deliver increased numbers of Ngāti Porou and community members with practical water safety knowledge and skills, as well as increased Surf Life Guarding capability on the East Coast.

The ultimate goal being a reduction in the drowning rates amongst Māori within Ngāti Porou and the wider community.

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 Maori and there was a real need for culturally appropriate interventions created and delivered by Maori for Maori.”

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 Gisborne/East Coast

+ Text Size -
Original generation time 2.3274 seconds.