A new vision for water safety in the Waikato
A group of community leaders brought together by Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) are setting the vision for a new water safety strategy for the Waikato.
WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says every region in New Zealand faces unique challenges in drowning prevention and solutions need to be community-led with real engagement at grassroots.
“Despite all the efforts from everyone over the last 10 years, the drowning toll isn’t coming down,” he says. “Something must change. We need a cultural shift in the way we approach water safety. We need communities to get involved and lead the change.”
Water safety stakeholders say ‘business as usual’ will not achieve this. In 2017 Waikato had one of the six highest drowning tolls in New Zealand, despite a reduction in 2016. In 2017, 20 per cent of all river drownings in New Zealand were in the Waikato.
“Addressing these challenges requires engagement with community leaders who understand the issues,” Jonty says. This includes engagement with iwi and Ma¯ ori organisations in the Waikato.
“Ma¯ori are overrepresented in Waikato drownings and over the past decade the Ma¯ori drowning rate in the Waikato was higher than the national average.”
The governance group set up by WSNZ includes Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper, Perry Group CEO Simon Perry, Waikato Tainui CEO Donna Flavell, Trust Waikato CEO Dennis Turton, Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills and Waikato Regional Council CEO Vaughan Payne.
The four main areas the strategy will focus on are water safety skills development, recreational boating safety, fresh water safety and beach and ocean safety.
They have different challenges and stakeholders.
The final plan will be tailored to the Waikato and identify initiative and investment priorities for each area.
Jonty says over the next two to three years WSNZ will develop a series of regional water safety strategies across New Zealand by directly engaging with regional organisations.
“The objective is to develop coordinated and collaborative action plans to help reduce drowning deaths and injuries, and build a culture of safe enjoyment around water,” he says. The community is invited to take part in discussion forums.
- Sport Waikato, Brian Perry Sports House, Akoranga Drive, Hamilton: Thursday, October 25, 5pm to 7.30pm.
- Te Ku¯ iti High School pavilion, 21 Hospital Road: Friday, October 26, 5pm to 7.30pm.
- Waikato District Council Nga¯ruawa¯hia office, 15 Galileo Street: Tuesday, October 30, 5pm — 7.30pm.
These will be where all people interested in water safety can discuss in more depth the challenges, issues and opportunities in the Waikato.
Registration to attend is required by emailing Sport Waikato at email@example.com or calling Helen HallKing on 07 858-5388.
The information collected will then be fed back to the governance group which will inform the development of the strategy.