Water Competency Sessions

Water Competency Sessions

Adult drowning rates in New Zealand are increasing.

Research has found that this is likely for a number of reasons:

  • Lack of water safety practice
  • Entrenched unsafe attitudes toward open water participation
  • Underestimation of risks in aquatic activity
  • Overly optimistic perception of capacity to cope with that risk

(Stanley & Moran, 2021)

The adult water competency pilot programme was completed in June 2022 which showed some interesting results:

  • Adults overestimated their water competence in controlled pool environment
  • Although not tested in open water during the pilot, adults perceived open water competency was likely to be overestimated
  • All participants water competency improved after education at the conclusion of the programme

(Stanley & Carmine, 2022)

Here’s what participants had to say about the programme:

I was incredibly surprised that I was able to improve weaknesses with a few simple tips from the facilitator

I was shocked to realise that there were some things that I couldn’t do after years of thinking I could do them; this was a real eye opener to figure out what I could do and how to keep myself safer in the water

Want to improve your water competency?

Take this opportunity to test yourself in the safety of the pool with instructors on hand to guide you. Can you do everything you think you can? Could you be safer in the water?

To improve your water competency, join a free session at one of the four venues that Drowning Prevention Auckland are facilitating with the support of Auckland Council. The session is one hour long, free of charge and is designed to help you discover your current level of water competency and give you tips on how to improve it.

To join this free initiative, contact one of the four sites below.

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Grief and healing the focus of World Drowning Prevention Day, with dawn memorial planned for Tāmaki Makaurau

Grief and healing the focus of World Drowning Prevention Day, with dawn memorial planned for Tāmaki Makaurau

MEDIA RELEASE | 21 July 2022

A very special commemoration to honour those who have lost their lives to drowning is planned for Monday 25 July 2022.

This event held at St Mary’s Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau, will provide healing for people who are grieving the loss of a special person in their lives. Rihari Wilson, who mourns the loss of his father and brother to drowning will speak on behalf of grieving families and raise awareness of the importance of water safety education so people can enjoy the water safely.

In the evening, the Sky Tower will light up blue as other nations across the world commence their tributes.

Drowning Prevention Auckland says this is a sad but important day for those families in Aotearoa and globally who have lost loved ones through drowning. But it is also a day of hope. In New Zealand, drownings are largely preventable and water safety education is the key to improving people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around water.

“The water safety sector in New Zealand is united as one voice to raise awareness that anyone can drown, no one should”, says Drowning Prevention Auckland chief executive, Nicola Keen-Biggelaar.

“This year alone, since New Year’s Day, 10 people have drowned in the Auckland region. In the last five years, drowning took the lives of 85 people locally (2017 – 2021)*. All 85 deaths were preventable leaving 85 families devastated.

“With warmer water this past summer, we’ve noticed more people visiting beaches, going out on boats, playing on new toys like paddleboards and kayaks. Yet we also saw more people get into strife and overestimate their current level of fitness or be willing to take more risks after going through extended lockdowns.”

Auckland Councillor and Parks, Arts, Community and Events Chairperson Alf Filipaina says that the impact of drowning deaths on the community really brings home the need to mark this day: “Too many people lose their lives through drowning. Communities are fractured with the loss of loved ones. This day remembers but also highlights we must do all we can to prevent families and communities losing their whānau and friends.”

Drowning affects every nation of the world. In New Zealand, the drowning rate is disproportionately high compared to other OECD countries.

In April 2021, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first ever Resolution on drowning prevention, acknowledging the issue for the first time in its 75-year history. New Zealand, along with over 80 countries worldwide, including Australia and some Pacific Nations, co-sponsored this historic resolution, which was initiated by Bangladesh and Ireland.

“Drowning is a preventable public health problem. As an organisation dedicated to saving lives in, on and around water, Drowning Prevention Auckland takes positive and practical action to promote and teach people water safety skills to help keep Kiwis safe around water”, says Keen-Biggelaar.

Drowning Prevention Auckland is one of Tāmaki Makaurau’s lead water safety education providers delivering water safety education and rescue training into the community and digitally through their free online education portal. Their drowning prevention strategies and education programmes are reaching into diverse communities, and across preschools and schools to teach people to enjoy the water safely.

Keen-Biggelaar is thrilled to have the collective support of members of the water safety sector and the public attend the commemorations at St Mary’s Bay at dawn (7am) on 25 July.

“This acknowledges the important work we are all doing to promote and deliver life saving education so families can celebrate their water experiences.” says Keen- Biggelaar.

*Auckland Region and New Zealand drowning Preventable deaths 1 Jan 2017 – 31 Dec 2021 Report. (Water Safety New Zealand).

Photo credit: The Hui (Newshub)

Water Safety Advisers Returning After Last Year’s Success

Water Safety Advisers Returning After Last Year’s Success

MEDIA RELEASE | 17 December 2021

With the arrival of warmer weather and the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, more New Zealanders will be heading to their favourite watering hole for a picnic and a swim. Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA) wants everyone to enjoy the water but reminds people that waterfalls and waterholes pose dangers for swimmers.

DPA’s Chief Executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says: “We’re really pleased to be supporting the water safety adviser programme at Hūnua Falls again this summer. While the country’s waterfalls and waterholes are inviting, they are very unpredictable and unforgiving. Tragically, they have too often proved deadly.”

In the five years 2016-2020, there have been 14 drowning deaths in waterfalls in New Zealand. Since 2016, there have been three drowning deaths at Hūnua Falls – two in 2016 and one in 2019.

Over the past two summers water safety advocates and organisations have worked together to help prevent further drownings at the picturesque Hūnua Falls. Water Safety New Zealand, Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland, and YMCA North are funding advisers who will be on site to educate people about the dangers involved in swimming at the popular destination.

“An integral part of this water safety project is having water safety advisers at the falls from late December through to the end of January, Wednesday to Sunday, advising about on-site risks at Hūnua and recommending safe behaviours. Advisers are on site at Hūnua Falls from 22 December for the summer.” Says YMCA North’s, Group Manager Outdoors & Fundraising, Dave Lockwood.

The surveying of visitors by the water safety advisers revealed that while most people were visiting Hūnua Falls to look at the waterfall or walk a track, there is still more work required to help people know why waterfalls are dangerous and not recommended for swimming. The same survey revealed that over half (55%) of people were over-confident in their own swimming competence and thought it more likely that others would get into trouble rather than themselves.

Auckland Councillor and Parks, Arts, Community and Events Chairperson Alf Filipaina is pleased to see the water safety advisers returning this year. “Education is really important. Too many people have died at Hūnua Falls in the past and it needs to be repeated that the falls are dangerous and unsuitable for swimming.”

He believes that the on-site advisers have played a vital role with reducing drownings, both fatal and non-fatal.

“Having people there most days over the busy period is really helping. Not only are Aucklanders learning about the risks around waterfalls, but they are taking that message back to their communities and that is important. We want people to come and view the majesty of the falls, but we want them to stay safe and return home to their whānau / ‘aiga too.”

Nicola reminds people of the water safety code, which will help keep people safe around any type of water:

Be prepared

Check the weather forecast, the Safeswim website (www.safeswim.org.nz) and know the local environment. Set rules for safe play. Flooding can be prevalent after rain, causing strong currents and turbulent water.

Look out for yourself and others

Always supervise children around water and keep children under five years within arm’s reach; never swim alone and don’t pressure your friends to get into the water if they’re not confident.

Be aware of the dangers

It’s the unknown, what lies below the surface and not knowing the depth of the water. Slippery and submerged rocks, debris and underwater currents pose dangers. Sudden changes in depth together with slippery rocks may make it difficult for you to find your footing. Cold water will fatigue you. Get out of the water before you get tired.

Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your abilities and skill level; know what you can and can’t do in the water. Once again, don’t be pressured into going into the water if you can’t swim or aren’t confident.
“We urge everyone to think about water safety this summer. Enjoy the water but don’t over- estimate your abilities and under-estimate the risks. We are all responsible for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe when we’re in, on and around water.” WSNZ’s Chief Executive Daniel Gerrard said.
Early Childhood Water Safety Education Programme

Early Childhood Water Safety Education Programme

As children become mobile they begin to explore their surroundings, however their sense of curiosity and adventure is not matched by an understanding of the possible risks and dangers.

Drowning Prevention Auckland offers parents and caregivers the opportunity to learn more about keeping their under 5s safe in, on and around water so that we can work together to reduce the risk of drowning.

Parent / caregiver in water with under 5

With funding support from Water Safety New Zealand we provide water safety workshops which will enable parents and caregivers to:

  • Develop their own water competence – knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Be more confident and skilled to provide essential water safety learning for their pre-school children, and to implement appropriate protective practices to keep their children safer in, on and near water.
  • Experience fun and safe activities with their under 5s in frequently accessed water environments.

While water can be fun, exciting and educational, it is potentially dangerous too and unfortunately in New Zealand our drowning statistics reflect this.

Most children aged 0-4 years of age who drown do so around the home environment with almost half in home pools. An emerging trend is an increase in drownings in environments outside, but close to the home, such as ponds, drains, farm troughs, creeks, and estuaries (WSNZ, 2020).

Group of young kids on the beach with adult supervision

The Early Childhood Water Safety Workshops include several components. The first is an indoor workshop to develop knowledge and understanding of water competence and appropriate protective practices to keep children safer around water. Parents and caregivers will then have the opportunity to develop their own and their child/childrens’ water confidence in a controlled environment. These follow-on in-water sessions take place in a pool and/or open water environments, such as the beach, creek, waterfall, pond, stream, and/or lake.

The open water environment sessions are an invaluable part of the programme and give people a real sense of awareness of the dangers and the risk minimisation strategies available when taking young children to these types of environments.

Early Childhood Centres can also have their children participate in fun, interaction and age appropriate sessions which enable the children to know what to do in a water environment, understand why safety measures are in place and why being safe around water at home and out and about is important.

DPA has the capacity for individuals and groups to book the parent/caregiver workshops and ECE childrens’ sessions throughout March, April and May. Get together with a group of friends, or ask your early childhood centre to organise a group of parents to benefit from this opportunity.

Please enquire to: Lynley Stewart [email protected] 021 0820 4183