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Learning to swim should not be a lottery

Learning to swim should not be a lottery

Parents must go the distance to ensure their children can swim 200m, after efforts to secure sponsorship for a new swimming initiative failed, Green Party MP Mike Ward said today.

Water Safety New Zealand said it can only support Swim for Life programmes in eight of 17 regional areas after the Lotteries Commission declined sponsorship for the scheme, which aims to have all children able to swim 200m by high school age.

The Green Sports and Leisure spokesperson said: "The fact that 96 per cent of year six children have some basic knowledge of swimming is admirable, but New Zealanders should be concerned that only 23 per cent could swim more than 200m.

"The need for funding is undoubtedly an issue for a country with a passion for the water, but taking the step from knowing the basics to being able to survive in the water is everybody's business," said Mr Ward.

"To survive a boating accident, you need to be able to swim 200m so this programme is essential to help reduce our drowning toll, which accounted for 122 people last year."

Mr Ward said New Zealanders must address their priorities to ensure the safety of children.

"Funding should not be a lottery. I find it hard to accept that the Government is willing to underwrite another America's Cup campaign, which already attracts the lion's share of corporate sponsorship dollars, and not consider topping up any shortfall to give this Swim for Life programme the best possible chance of succeeding.

"However, teaching our children to survive in the water is not just the responsibility of government, schools or water safety officials. Parents must encourage children to take advantage of the many hours spent in pools or at the beach to sharpen up their water confidence and endurance.

"We must support these programmes as if our lives, and our children's lives, depended on it - because they do."

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