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Water safety significant issue for Northland Maori

Media release
Public Health Association
Thursday 3 July 2008

Water safety a significant issue for Northland Maori

Ignorance around water safety continues to put Maori at risk in Northland, Brian Harris from the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) said at the Public Health Association’s annual conference in Waitangi today.

“Our research shows that the groups most at risk are Maori under five years, Maori teens and significantly Maori men over fifty,” Brian said in his address to the conference.

“This last group includes men with lots of existing maritime knowledge – and a long history of living close to the sea and working with it. So we’ve had to think really hard about how we reach these groups with preventive messages.”

Brian Harris believes that many answers lie in Maori tradition.

“Maori have always been a maritime people. They came to Aotearoa across the oceans from Hawaiki, and were skilled navigators.

“Early Maori communities had inter-generational skills transfer, graduated supervision around water and protocols for hazards and sustainability of kaimoana resources. We can link this tikanga to contemporary water safety issues.”

Brian and his colleague, Taane Thomas, have fashioned a checklist using traditional Maori knowledge and they use this in workshops with local Maori.

“We’ve used the word ‘wairua’ as the basis for a checklist of reminders – things that Maori need to be aware of when they are on or near the sea for work or recreation.

It’s about developing messages that Maori can connect with at an emotional and spiritual level.”

Water Safety Checklist
W Weather check What’s ahead?
A Ability Am I capable?
I Immersion Am I ready?
R Respect “kaua e huria to tuara ki te moana”
U Unseen dangers Am I equipped?
A ‘Ave a good time And return safely


ENDS

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