skip to main content

Water safety investment in Wellington.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is pleased to be investing in locally driven drowning prevention intiatives in Wellington with a focus on primary school aquatic education, and piloting a high school aquatic education course.

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 64** 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).

In Wellington over the last ten years 2009 – 2018 there have been 48 preventable drowning fatalities, with 11 in 2015. There have been 156 hospitalisations over the same time period.

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.

“It is critical every child in this country gets access to aquatic education” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills. “We are surrounded by water and it is part of our way of life – be it boating, swimming, surfing, diving, collecting kaimoana – every New Zealander needs to understand the risks, have respect for the water and have some fundamental knowledge about what to do should they find themselves in trouble. That’s what Water Skills for Life is all about.

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 is funding Porirua City Council’s Dash Swim School to teach 4,431 year 1-8 students in Porirua and the wider Wellington region eight Water Skills for Life lessons.

The Wellington Community Trust is also supporting water safety and the work of Dash Swim School with transport funding to get the children to and from the pool.

WSNZ is also funding Easyswim School to teach 986 primary school students aged 5-10 years old at seven decile 4-10 schools. These lessons will be based on the seven Water Skills for Life skill sets (consisting of 21 in-water skills and six water safety awareness related skills).

Easyswim School will also run a pilot for high school students teaching Water Skills for Life to 50 high school students aged 13-18 years old. These lessons will also be based on the seven Water Skills for Life skill sets. Students will develop knowledge, attitudes and behaviours to be safe in aquatic environments.

“The social and economic cost of drowning far outweighs funding to the water safety sector” says Jonty Mills. “We need strategic, targeted and innovative initiatives to tackle this important issue.”


*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).

**Drowning data is sourced from Water Safety New Zealand’s DrownBaseTM and the figures provided are provisional as at 14/11/19

***Non-fatal drownings that result in a stay in hospital of 24 hours or longer are classified as ‘hospitalisations’.

Water safety investment in Wellington

+ Text Size -