Swim school num­bers dip

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - Maia Hart

Anna Valk’s fam­ily friend lost their 7-year-old son in a drown­ing ac­ci­dent, some­thing she still thinks about.

Valk’s 5-year-old Anais is en­rolled in swim­ming lessons at

Marl­bor­ough Lines Sta­dium 2000, which Valk be­lieves is cru­cial in a re­gion sur­rounded by wa­ter.

‘‘Los­ing one of my chil­dren is one of the worst things that could hap­pen, and know­ing that I could stop it hap­pen­ing . . . I could never for­give my­self,’’ she said.

Sta­dium 2000 hosts a swim school and pri­mary school pro­grammes, ‘learn to swim’ and ‘aquablast’, but num­bers have dwin­dled, rais­ing the eye­brows of man­age­ment.

The swim school had 5503 stu­dents en­rolled in the 2018-19 year, down from 5799 the year be­fore. Num­bers in the other pro­grammes had dropped from 4256 to 3538 in that time.

Anais has lessons with her friend Mckenzie. The two stopped for a stint in 2019 and both of their par­ents no­ticed when they got back in the wa­ter they had lost some skills.

Sta­dium 2000 chief ex­ec­u­tive Rob Ma­clean said a new events co­or­di­na­tor would re­view the swim pro­grammes to re­search why num­bers were down.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately, the more young peo­ple and even old folks we can get fa­mil­iar with the wa­ter, the bet­ter the out­come,’’ Ma­clean said.

The Marl­bor­ough Lines Sta­dium 2000 an­nual re­port stated it was not clear whether this was due to ‘‘de­mo­graphic fac­tors, colder weather, a lower fo­cus na­tion­ally on drown­ing risk pre­ven­tion or some other fac­tor’’.

‘‘Some of our pe­riph­ery pro­grammes are in­cred­i­ble, it’s the fun­da­men­tal skills we in­tro­duce to school kids, like what you should do if you cap­size a dinghy, or how to put a life jacket on prop­erly,’’ Ma­clean said.

‘‘I think it’s a Kiwi birthright that kids some­times miss out on.’’

He said the num­ber of chil­dren en­rolled in their pro­grammes was still pos­i­tive, but it was about get­ting as many Kiwi kids con­fi­dent in the wa­ter as pos­si­ble.

Wa­ter Safety New Zealand data showed 15 pre­ventable fa­tal drown­ings in Marl­bor­ough and Kaiko¯ ura in the last decade, a num­ber sig­nif­i­cantly less than the 29 for the decade prior.

Scott Ham­mond/ Stuff

Anais Valk, 5, learns to swim at Sta­dium 2000 in Blen­heim.

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