As the lead agency in the water safety sector Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is tasked with delivering funding strategies to tackle our nations drowning problem. New Zealand is towards the upper end of drowning death rates in the OECD. In 2016 there were 78 preventable fatalities and drowning hospitalisations are on the rise.
In its 2017/18 Drowning Prevention Investment Round WSNZ is funding organisations working with the vulnerable and at risk to deliver much needed water safety education and support.
Funded primarily by the New Zealand Lotteries Grant Board administered through Sport New Zealand, and supported by ACC, $1,664,260 was available for distribution by WSNZ this year - $129,260 more than 2016-17 – a 8.4% increase primarily due to a $400,000 increase in NZLGB funding.
“The water safety sector is predominantly non-Government funded and supported by volunteers. Any additional funding is a lifeline providing vital education to the most vulnerable.” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills.
Funding is distributed to professional and national sport and recreation organisations, swim schools, local authorities, regional sports trusts, Plunket and Trusts which administer water safety education initiatives.
Specifically, $1.189m will be allocated to providers to deliver the national aquatic initiative Water Skills For Life (WSFL) to children aged 5 – 13 years across the country.
With a reduction in the level of water safety education in schools, WSFL makes more effective use of the time students spend in the pool. Based on core water safety competencies, WSFLprovides foundational water safety knowledge and the ability to assess risk.
“The social and economic cost of drowning far outweighs funding to the water safety sector and strategic and innovative initiatives are required to bring down our high drowning toll” says Mills.
The launch in 2015 of the Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020, by then Sport and Recreation Minister The Hon Jonathan Coleman, was a significant milestone and an attempt to create a step-change in Kiwi attitudes and behaviour around water.
The strategy sets bold targets for a reduction in drownings, particularly those involving males who make up 86% of all fatalities.
While the sector is more aligned and efficient the number of preventable drowning fatalities has plateaued while the number of drowning related hospitalisations is increasing.
Mills says this reflects the complex nature of the drowning problem. “We have a diverse and growing population, an expansive network of unpatrolled waterways, beaches, lakes and rivers and a broad range of water based activities.”
“With the changing nature of the drowning problem in New Zealand and increasing pressure on the sector to meet growing expectations, it’s imperative that water safety skills training becomes an integral part of the education process for all New Zealand children” says Mills.
To view the full list of funding recipients visit http://www.watersafety.org.nz/our-sector/funding-and-partnerships/grant-recipients/