A group of local community leaders brought together by Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) recently met to set the vision for a new water safety strategy for the Waikato region.
WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says every region in New Zealand faces its own unique challenges when it comes to drowning prevention and the way forward is for the solutions to be community led with real engagement at a grassroots level.
“Despite all the efforts from everyone over the last 10 years, the drowning toll isn’t coming down. 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.”
This emphasis on collaboration and delivery at a regional level reflects widespread agreement amongst water safety sector stakeholders that ‘business as usual’ will not achieve the desired water safety outcomes.
In 2017 Waikato has one of the six highest drowning tolls in New Zealand, despite a reduction in preventable drowning fatalities from 2016. Moreover, during 2017 20% of all river drownings in New Zealand occurred in the Waikato region.
Jonty Mills said “addressing these challenges requires engagement with community leaders who understand the issues”.
This includes engagement with iwi and Māori organisations in the Waikato. “Māori are overrepresented in Waikato drownings and over the past decade the Māori drowning rate in the Waikato was higher than the national average,“ said Mr Mills. “Effective input from Māori is crucial to the strategy’s success.”
The governance group set up by WSNZ to lead the strategy in the Waikato is made up of:

  • Matthew Cooper, CEO Sport Waikato
  • Simon Perry, CEO Perry Group
  • Donna Flavell, CEO Waikato Tainui
  • Dennis Turton, CEO Trust Waikato
  • Jonty Mills, CEO Water Safety New Zealand
  • Vaughan Payne, CEO Waikato Regional Council
The four main activity areas the strategy will focus on are Water safety skills development, Recreational boating safety, Fresh water safety and Beach and ocean safety. These activities have different challenges as well as different stakeholders. The final plan will be tailored to the specific circumstances of the Waikato and will identify the priority initiatives and investment priorities for each activity area.
Jonty Mills noted that over the next 2-3 years WSNZ will develop a series of regional water safety strategies across New Zealand by direct engagement 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 said.
Media and the community are invited to attend discussion forums to inform the strategy.
These will be where all people interested in water safety can come and discuss in more depth the challenges, issues and opportunities in the Waikato.
Registration to attend the forums is required and you can do so by emailing Sport Waikato at reception@sportwaikato.org.nz or calling Helen Hall-King on 07 858 5388.
The information collected from these forums will then be fed back to the governance group which will inform the development of the strategy.
Thursday 25 October, 5pm to 7.30pm
Sport Waikato
Brian Perry Sports House
Akoranga Drive
Te Kuiti
Friday 26 October, 5pm to 7.30pm
Te Kuiti High SchoolPavilion
21 Hospital Road
Te Kuiti
Monday 29 October, 5pm – 7.30pm
Taupo Events Centre
26 AC Baths Avenue
Tuesday 30 October, 5pm – 7.30pm
Waikato District Council
Ngaruawahia Office
15 Galileo Street
Ngaruawahia 3720
Wednesday 31 October, 5pm – 7.30pm
Jack McLean Events Centre
Thames High School
707-799 Rolleston Street
For media enquiries call Ben Christie at Water Safety NZ
021 770 285

A new approach to reduce drownings for the Waikato Region

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