The ability to swim can be taken for granted by those who have it. In that way swimming is a little like the ability to read and write. You can get by without it, but it’s going to restrict your lifestyle.
Of course, swimming ability is not on a par with literacy in terms of its importance as a life skill, and its results for employment opportunities.
But there is certainly a school of thought that swimming is vital, and the New Zealand school curriculum enshrines an expectation that all students will have opportunities to learn ‘‘basic aquatics skills by the end of year 6’’.
In a country surrounded and criss-crossed by water, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
On Tuesday, Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills announced that provisional figures for 2017 showed a 13 per cent increase in preventable drownings on the previous year, 88 against 78.
Earlier, he suggested the closure of school swimming pools - 165 nationally in the last five years - was contributing to a decline in the teaching of adequate water skills to students.
The bottom line - and the heatwave driving New Zealanders to beaches and pools should help to emphasise this - is that we need to find a way to ensure our children are learning to swim as early as possible.