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Press Release from: Water Safety New Zealand 

Water Safety New Zealand, Swimming New Zealand and The Warehouse are working to address a lag in vital water safety skills in New Zealand primary school children.

Student achievement in Water Skills For Life is recorded in a national database and an analysis of the 1.7 million records has identified low levels of achievement across a number of floating and propulsion skills, including floating on your back for one minute and sculling for at least three minutes.

To rectify this crucial water safety deficit a combined effort is underway to get Water Skills for Life, the national standard for aquatic education for children in years 1 – 8 needs taught in every primary school across the country.

In 2017 The Warehouse became the sponsor of Water Skills for Life to support the work being done to lift the levels of aquatic education in New Zealand’s schools and turn around this country’s high drowning toll. The Warehouse also supports the initiative with in-store fundraising so more children will have access to these crucial water safety skills.

Last year accidental immersion incidents (where people ended up in the water when they had no intention of doing so) was the deadliest activity in terms of preventable fatal drownings. To survive an accidental fall into the water personal buoyancy and propulsion are essential to get out of trouble.

The latest data from WSNZ’s Drownbase shows in 2017 15 – 24 year olds were the largest group of fatalities (alongside 65+) with 16 preventable* fatalities. A third of these were female (the highest female toll in that age group since 1983) and swimming was the prevalent activity.

This data suggests too many children are going into their teenage years without the necessary skills needed to stay safe in the water, to assess risk and make smart decisions.

The Warehouse CEO Pejman Okhovat says it’s heart-breaking especially when these tragic deaths are preventable. “We need to do better in keeping our kids safe. We are determined to get Water Skills for Life into more Kiwi communities and have a real impact on New Zealand’s terrible drowning statistics.”

WSNZ’s 2018 Attitudes & Behaviour survey revealed a third of kiwis experienced a serious situation in the water, and continue to underestimate the danger posed by our waterways. Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death, the second highest cause of death for 1 – 24 year olds and the third highest cause of accidental death.

Our drowning rate per capita is twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK. Water Safety New Zealand, Swimming New Zealand and The Warehouse believe aquatic education through Water Skills for Life is the best way to turn around our drowning problem.

Swimming NZ CEO Steve Johns says the programme goes to the heart of drowning prevention. “It educates children on the assessment of risk, awareness of dangers and equips them with the skills and competencies to be able to act in potential drowning situations. These are the life skills New Zealanders need to stay safe in, on and around water.”

The programme was developed off the back of international research, best practice and water safety sector expertise, and Water Skills for Life supported by The Warehouse provides our children with valuable life saving skills for the real world so they can navigate New Zealand’s waterways safely.

The Warehouse has recognised this is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently and through its support and investment is looking to boost the level of aquatic education in this country.