Calls for law change on wa­ter safety

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - What’s On - MIRI SCHROETER

Wa­ter of­fi­cials want life­jack­ets made com­pul­sory for some wa­ter sports as the num­ber of drown­ings in­creases.

There were 88 drown­ing fa­tal­i­ties re­garded as pre­ventable in 2017, up from 78 in 2016, which has Wa­ter Safety NZ want­ing a law change that would re­quire pad­dle board­ers and kayak­ers to wear life­jack­ets.

Cur­rently, the law re­quires the skip­per of a boat to carry a cor­rectly sized life­jacket for each per­son on board, but there are no rules around other ves­sels.

Wa­ter Safety NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Jonty Mills said the law should re­quire all peo­ple on recre­ational ves­sels 6 me­tres or shorter to wear life­jack­ets at all times in the wa­ter.

‘‘We think this would help change the cul­ture around life­jack­ets as the law change around seat belts and hel­mets did.’’

With non-pa­trolled ar­eas, such as rivers, be­ing the ‘‘dead­li­est aquatic en­vi­ron­ment’’ in 2016, swim­ming ed­u­ca­tion also needed to be a pri­or­ity, Mills said.

In 2016, there were 24 drown­ings in rivers and in­land still wa­ters, such as lakes and ponds, which was more than 25 per cent of the to­tal drown­ings that year. In 2017, this in­creased to 26 drown­ings.

The sta­tis­tics from Wa­ter Safety NZ are pro­vi­sional only, as a fi­nal re­port is ex­pected midyear, once po­lice and coro­nial re­ports are pro­cessed.

Mills said peo­ple needed ed­u­ca­tion about the dan­gers of wa­ter and how to as­sess risks.

Only a quar­ter of New Zealand schools de­liv­ered an ad­e­quate or min­i­mal level of aquatic ed­u­ca­tion, he said.

‘‘Our drown­ing toll is at the high end for a de­vel­oped coun­try. We’d like to see it more struc­tured in the school cur­ricu­lum.’’

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion spokeswoman Ellen Mac­Gre­gor-Reid said the New Zealand cur­ricu­lum re­quired pri­mary schools to pro­vide chil­dren with the op­por­tu­nity to learn ba­sic aquatic skills.

‘‘Schools have the dis­cre­tion to de­velop and im­ple­ment an aquatic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme that best works for their stu­dents and en­cour­ages them to be con­fi­dent and safe in the wa­ter.

‘‘The min­istry pro­vides all schools with an an­nual op­er­a­tions grant, which can be used to fund the run­ning of a swim­ming pool.’’

Schools with no pools could use the grant to take pupils to a nearby swim­ming pool.


Life­guards used to pa­trol swim spots other than beaches in the 1980s and 1990s.

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