Call to make pools free for under-5s
Entry to Lower Hutt’s six swimming pools could soon be free for children under 5 as one councillor pushes to get the word out about water safety.
After witnessing the near drowning of a teen who was unable to swim at Petone Beach last summer, Hutt City councillor Campbell Barry wants children to be confident around water.
‘‘It was a very scary thing to witness, he was just lucky that people were around to save him.’’
Barry said many families were unable to afford swimming programmes for their kids and making pool visits free for under5s would encourage confidence around water at an early age.
‘‘I truly believe that making our pools more accessible for kids in their early years will be a life saver for some.’’
He will present his policy to the council in November, with the aim of having it included in next year’s long-term plan consultation.
Entry into council pools is $3.50 for people under 15, while parents supervising children under 8 can enter pools for free.
It was estimated that introducing free pool entry for under-5s would cost the council $130,000 a year but Barry said the policy could be made cost-neutral by re-prioritising a small amount of council spending in the CBD or by making minor changes to the fee structure at pools.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said he supported Barry’s proposed initiative, adding that teaching water safety skills early and building confidence around water was extremely important.
‘‘One of the biggest issues in particular is the decline in water safety lessons at schools. [School] pools are in rapid decline.
‘‘We all play in the water in some way, shape or form, but kids are coming out of [the education system] without water safety skills.’’
He said New Zealand had one of the highest drowning tolls in the developed world and drowning statistics were not helped by dangerous conditions found here, with fast flowing currents, rips and cool water temperatures.
The Water Safety New Zealand Drowning Prevention Report 2016 showed an average of 81 downings each year from 2011 till 2015.
The number of under-5s who drowned in 2016 stood at three.
Wellington City Council scrapped pool fees for under-5s in 2016.
Campbell Barry with his niece, Karly McCabe, 1, at Huia Pool.