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Drowning Prevention Investment Programme

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is looking to invest in partnerships that deliver drowning prevention interventions to help bring down New Zealand’s high drowning toll.

There were 81 fatal preventable drownings last year - 81 needless deaths leaving families and communities devastated.

WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills says water safety continues to be a critical issue for New Zealand society.

“Drowning is the fourth highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand. Drowning related hospitalisations have been increasing year on year for over a decade. Over the past ten years the cost of drowning deaths and injuries to New Zealand is in the order of $4.79 billion.”

“In addition, the personal and social costs to New Zealanders from drowning deaths and injuries are incalculable” says Mills.

More than ever before New Zealand faces a changing water safety landscape. Increasingly diverse demographics and greater participation rates point towards drowning prevention becoming more complex.

Jonty Mills says the water safety sector is under stress as it tries to meet these changing demands.

“This is reflected in the preventable drowning statistics. The downward trend of preventable drownings has plateaued since 2006,” says Mills.

The major focus of investment for WSNZ this year is its Water Skills for Life initiative – giving 5 to 13 year olds the necessary skills, techniques and knowledge to stay safe in, on and around the water.

WSNZ has looked to the best international research to find the most effective way to tackle our drowning problem.

The research revealed one of the most powerful tools is teaching children water survival skills.

In 2016/17 $1,535,000 was distributed to 24 organisations during a process that is significantly over-subscribed. As a result, WSNZ will be placing strong emphasis on alignment to its funding priorities and high risk areas in the assessment of applications.

“We look forward to supporting strong drowning prevention partnerships that reduce our drowning toll and keep New Zealander’s safe in, on and around our waterways.”


*Preventable drowning fatalities are those where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) while non-preventable drowning deaths include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death)

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