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Too Many Maori Drowning

Too Many Maori Drowning
18 November 2003
Media Release
For immediate release

Too Many Maori Drowning

Maori are twice as likely to drown as non-Maori, said Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia, earlier today at the Beehive launch of a new Maori Water Safety Programme.

"What's more, the number of Maori drowning is increasing," said Mr Horomia. "In 2002 there was a tangi every two weeks for a Maori who had drowned. Unless we do something to change this trend, even more will drown next year.

"And with Maori becoming more involved in the fisheries industry and other related marine businesses through the proposed fisheries allocation - drownings are bound to increase dramatically," he said.

In response, Water Safety New Zealand has launched a public awareness campaign targeting Maori. Campaign coordinator, Matene Love, explains how the programme will work:

"Our plan is to inform, educate and influence," says Mr Love. "We appreciate how important water is to the Maori people - whether it be lakes, rivers or the sea. What we need to do, however, is remind our people of the risks of being in, on and near the water. We must respect the water - be sensible and take all possible precautions."

Mr Love says the group most at risk of drowning is Maori men over the age of 24 years. Recreational water activities (mahi wai) are responsible for most Maori men drowning and food gathering (kohi kai) is the second biggest cause of their deaths.

"Perhaps one of the worst statistics is that 44% of all the under five-year-olds who drown in New Zealand are Maori. And nine times out of 10, the reason they drown is due to poor supervision.

"It's time Maori got water-wise. It's time to get serious about this issue - and halt the alarming number of drownings we are simply 'accepting' each year."

Mr Love says the new, three-year Maori Water Safety Campaign will be taking its message to local communities, hui, schools and marae over the summer months - and he urges Maori to support the campaign and help save the lives of their whanau.

Maori Water Safety - Key Facts

- Since 1980 3706 people have drowned, with Maori representing nearly twice the rate of non-Maori. - While the overall number of drownings in New Zealand is decreasing, the number of Maori people drowning is increasing. - In 2002 there was a tangi every two weeks for a Maori person who had drowned. Most of these deaths were preventable. - Our men are most at risk - 84% of Maori who drown are male; - Mahi wai (recreational water activities) are the single biggest cause of drowning for Maori men. - Kohi kai (food gathering) is the second biggest cause of drowning for Maori men. - Maori children represent 44% of all the under five-year-olds who drown. - Forty six percent of Maori children who drown, do so while swimming. - Nearly all (95%) Maori babies who drown, do so because they weren't properly supervised.


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