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WSNZ Appalled at Ministry for Environment Campaign

29 August 2006
Media Release
For immediate release

Water Safety New Zealand Appalled at Ministry for the Environment Campaign

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is disappointed at the lack of consistency and respect for the water safety sector displayed by the Ministry for the Environment.

Today, the Ministry for the Environment launched a public awareness campaign designed to “grab people’s attention and get them thinking about how they use one of our most precious assets - water”.

New Zealand has one of the highest drowning tolls in the developed world. Regrettably, the Environment campaign images show fully clothed men in the middle of lakes and rivers; yet every year 80% of New Zealand’s drowning victims are male, with at least 40% of drowning fatalities in inland waterways such as rivers and lakes.

The imagery is an accurate, and unfortunate, depiction of the majority of New Zealand’s drownings over half the drowning fatalities occur when the victim is fully clothed, with no intention of being in the water.

WSNZ has a lead role to play in the Government‘s Drowning Prevention Strategy, part of the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy. The Drowning Prevention Strategy, now approved by Cabinet, will offer a comprehensive approach to reducing drownings. Its success will depend on the support of numerous Non Government Organisations (NGOs).

WSNZ Executive Director Alan Muir is appalled at the lack of regard for water safety, and the clear lack of clarity, consistency and respect for the Government’s own initiative.

“WSNZ and its member organisations work tirelessly to represent the water safety sector and to coordinate effective education strategies to reduce drownings. The entire budget represented in this one mass media campaign makes our work pale into insignificance. The inconsistency between government agencies is shocking and marginalises a sector that is already fraught and under-resourced,” said Alan Muir.

”The hard work of dedicated NGOs to reduce the drowning toll of the last 20 years has just received a slap in the face. The Ministry for the Environment’s ‘water appreciation’ campaign demonstrates questionable imagery and ignores the New Zealanders who drown every year”.

The introduction of the three year campaign to raise awareness of water use and quality issues appears to be destined for further conflict with not only the water safety sector but the Government’s own Drowning Prevention Strategy.


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