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David Gerrard To Chair Drowning Prevention Council

MAY 9 2008

Respected Sports Professor And Ex-Olympic Swimmer Appointed To Chair Drowning Prevention Council

Professor David Gerrard has been appointed to head up a team dedicated to reducing the number of drownings and water-related injuries in New Zealand.

Each year the equivalent of two busloads of people drown in our seas, rivers, lakes and pools. More than half of these people drowned when they didn’t even intend to be in the water.

Professor Gerrard, a sports medicine expert at the Dunedin School of Medicine, a World Anti-Doping Agency member, a former Olympic Team doctor, Chef de Mission, and Olympic swimmer and Commonwealth Gold medallist, is the first independent chairman for the Drowning Prevention Council.

On average 130 people drown in New Zealand each year, while 650 are hospitalised as a result of water-related injuries. The Council, made up of government and non-government organisations, was set up to spearhead the government’s Drowning Prevention Strategy, which is focused on reducing our drowning record.

“That so many people are injured or die each year is a clear sign that more needs to be done in the area of water safety,” said Katie Sadleir, ACC’s General Manager, Injury Prevention.

The Council is focused on water safety, providing leadership to the advisory committees working on the Strategy, and ensuring its goals are met. ACC is leading the Drowning Prevention Strategy, which is a key area of the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy, and is supporting the Council.

“We’re delighted to have Professor Gerrard chairing the Council. He has such a strong interest and invaluable expertise in water safety, as well as links with swimming and surfing organisations. Everyone involved in improving New Zealand’s water safety record holds him in high regard, so we look forward to continuing the excellent work that has already been undertaken.”

“I take this important role very seriously. It's a big responsibility to assist in implementing the national Drowning Prevention Strategy,” David Gerrard said.

“Our annual drowning statistics are a sober reminder of the need to do some things differently. ACC has brought together the key players in the water safety sector – individually they are doing excellent work but I believe collectively we can be even better at addressing the needless loss of life through drowning.”

BACKGROUNDER: What is the Drowning Prevention Strategy?

Development of the Strategy has been led by ACC, with other participants including:

• The Injury Prevention Research Unit (University of Otago)
• Maritime New Zealand
• New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy Secretariat
• New Zealand Recreation Association
• New Zealand Search and Rescue Council Secretariat
• Royal New Zealand Coastguard
• Surf Life Saving New Zealand
• Swimming New Zealand
• WaterSafe Auckland
• Water Safety New Zealand.

The Strategy’s vision is for “a water-safe New Zealand, free from drowning”, and is based on two goals:

1. The provision of effective leadership by the water safety sector and government. The focus is on strengthening strategic leadership and co-ordination; building a sound water safety infrastructure; ensuring an appropriate level and distribution of resourcing for water safety initiatives and agencies; and building New Zealand’s water safety knowledge and evidence base via research and evaluation of interventions.

2. The delivery of exceptional water safety services. This is operationally focused around the core functions of the water safety sector. These objectives broadly cover water rescue, water safety education, the creation of safer water-related environments, and community engagement.

The Strategy’s objectives are to:

• Provide strategic direction and effective co-ordination by and for the water safety sector
• Ensure an appropriate water safety infrastructure
• Ensure an appropriate level and distribution of resourcing for water safety initiatives and agencies
• Improve our water safety knowledge through research and development
• Provide quality water safety emergency rescue services
• Provide quality water safety education and awareness
• Create safer environments in, on, under and around water
• Enhance community and sector engagement in water safety initiatives

The DPS was launched last year and will run until 2011.


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