The recent Water Safety Sector Capability Review noted the potential for local government’s role in water safety sector to change in response to climate change and changes in New Zealand’s population age structure, ethnicity and location. As a result, the water safety sector’s relationship with local government was something that needs development.
WSNZ, on behalf of the wider water safety sector, is currently seeking to build relationships with key local government organisations in New Zealand. In the first instance with a focus on working with Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), the organisation that represents and advocates for local government in New Zealand.
LGNZ has agreed that WSNZ can speak to several of its regular meetings of elected local representatives about drowning prevention and water safety. In June WSNZ presented to the Rural and Provincial meeting and in late August to the LGNZ Zone 1 meeting (covering Auckland and Northland).
At both these meetings WSNZ provided an overview of the role of the organisation and the objectives of the Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020. In this regard, the goal contained in the sector strategy that ‘New Zealand communities take the lead to promote the safe enjoyment of local water’ was emphasised. In addition, the objectives of the three pilot regional water safety strategies that WSNZ is facilitating the development of were also highlighted. These being: greater regional ownership of drowning prevention; improved coordination of effort and capability; and increased funding and activity.
Feedback was positive at both meetings and there was interest in a range of water safety issues affecting local communities like the closure of school pools, river safety, and the fencing of home pools legislation. One of the key points of interest for WSNZ was on how it can more effectively engage with local government in New Zealand. WSNZ indicated that it was interested in developing a sustainable approach to engaging with local government on water safety issues.
WSNZ Chief Executive, Jonty Mills said the relationship with local government is something we need get right as a sector. Jonty acknowledges there are already a range of existing relationships between local governments and sector organisations, but we need to make sure we are talking to the right people and getting greater awareness of the key water safety issues impacting locally and their potential solutions.
WSNZ is booked in to speak to other LGNZ meetings in the coming months and is making sure local government is aware of the process for developing regional water safety strategies in their jurisdictions.