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Recreation in, on and around the water is part of life for millions of people in this country. As an island nation, our beaches, rivers and lakes are some of the most magnificent in the world. A moderate climate, accessible waterways and public and residential pools provide ample opportunities for Kiwis, immigrants and tourists alike to recreate and participate in water sports and activities and go boating and fishing year round.

With any water comes risk and sadly every year far too many people lose their lives or are injured in, on or around the water. The tragedy is that most drownings and injuries are preventable.

Preventable drowning fatalities are where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) and water safety education and activity could have prevented the death.

2017 was a tragic year for toddlers and babies with seven infants fatally drowning compared to three the previous year. five of those fatalities were in home pools. And at the other end of the age spectrum fatalities almost doubled with 16 over 65 year olds losing their lives. This is equal to the number of fatalities in the 15 – 24 year age group.

Immersion incidents, where the victims had no intention of being in the water, is the largest cause of drowning followed by those who simply went for a swim which ended in tragedy.

Research* shows that while drowning is recognised as a problem by 84 percent of New Zealanders, (fifth behind child abuse, domestic violence, road safety and bullying) the reality is drowning is the leading cause of recreational death, the second highest cause of death for 1 – 24 year olds** and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

Our drowning rate per 100,000 of population is twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK. This is an issue that requires urgent attention and action. Water Safety New Zealand believes the best way to tackle our drowning problem is through education.

* WSNZ Attitudes and Behaviour survey 2018

** Child and Youth Mortality report Committee: 13th data report 2012-16


Water safety education for life long safety

Water Skills for Life is the national standard for aquatic education in New Zealand primary schools.

Water Skills For Life is made up of seven skill sets that contain 27 core skills, it establishes broad fundamental competencies for life-long water safety.

It gives children the skills and knowledge they need to assess risk and make smart decisions around water so they can stay out of trouble and also how to survive should they get into trouble.

Children are taught Water Skills for Life at school, either by their school teacher in the school or community pool or by a swim teacher at a community pool. Schools can decide how they teach their students Water Skills For Life. It is easier to teach than technical swimming and fun to learn.

Swimming New Zealand work with swim teachers and schools to help them deliver authentic water skills learning experiences for students across a wide and diverse range of abilities, ages and cultures.

Corporate partner The Warehouse and funding from NZ Lotteries Grants Board supports the work being done to lift the levels of aquatic education in New Zealand’s schools and turn around the country’s high drowning toll. The Warehouse also supports the initiative with in-store fundraising so more children will have access to these crucial water safety skills.

Education through Water Skills for Life is expected to bring about a fundamental culture change around water safety in New Zealand.

Learn more at watersafety.org.nz/forlife

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