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Launch of RiverSafe – Parliament Buildings

Hon Trevor Mallard
10 October 2000 Speech Notes

Launch of RiverSafe – Parliament Buildings

Thank you for coming this evening.

Those of you who think that a Minister's involvement in launches like this are restricted to the relative safety of the Parliamentary precinct would have had your assumptions challenged if you'd been at the Hutt River this afternoon.

I was given a first hand demonstration on river safety by being the 'victim' of a simulated drowning experienced. I was watched by experts and I was shown the tools to get out of such situations. The statements prepared for me beforehand described it as a 'scary experience'. Believe me when I say that was an understatement.

New Zealand has such a large number of beautiful waterways. I imagine that most people in New Zealand would live close to a river, and would visit one at some stage. Year round rivers provide great venues for sport and leisure activities, and are enjoyed by many New Zealanders. I have fond childhood memories of swimming in the Wainuiomata River as a child. As a local MP, I've noticed that more and more young people seem to be swimming in our local rivers. Whether that is to do with the joy of river swimming or the prices charged to get into public swimming pools is open to debate.

Sadly however, too many people get into difficulty in our rivers. Around 30% of all New Zealand drownings occur in rivers, and that equates to about 40 people each year. More than one thousand New Zealanders have lost their lives in river-related drownings in the last 20 years.

These drownings are tragedies, which may be prevented through education and better understandings of river safety concepts. The two drowning incidents earlier this year involving children on school activities, are the real and very sad reasons why we need to improve our knowledge of river safety. Those particular incidents resulted in the establishment of a Working Party on Education Outside the Classroom, and I know the Working Party’s findings accord with what we are launching here.

It’s fitting then that as both the Minister of Education and the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure, I launch the RiverSafe initiative today.

RiverSafe includes an activity-based teaching resource for secondary schools that links to the National Curriculum. It includes 19 activities, and is designed to give students the skills to complete their own risk-management analysis. Student activities are undertaken both in the classroom and on-site, which enhances students’ understandings of risk management concepts.

As you can see, the resource contains an excellent colour poster that illustrates desired behaviours in a number of different scenarios. The Respect Rivers theme is carried over in the RiverSafe booklet, with some good close-up shots of people on and in rivers. Alongside each of these photos is key information about the activity being performed, and how to do it safely.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that RiverSafe is an important and useful resource. Water Safety New Zealand has done a great job developing RiverSafe, and I thank them for their efforts.

Finally, the poster really does capture the essence of the initiative – it’s ok to go to the river and have fun, but we must always respect the power of rivers and be safety conscious, whatever the activity.

Thank you.


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