DPA Launches New Adult Water Safety eLearning Module

DPA Launches New Adult Water Safety eLearning Module

Drowning Prevention Auckland has launched a new eLearning module for adults which aims to address the gap between perception and reality when it comes to water competency. The objective is to help the higher risk group of older adults stay safe by improving their competence, skills and understanding through effective preparation.

The ‘Water Safety for Adults’ component is available online to anyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is completely free as part of the DPA eLearning platform. The module covers how to assess personal competence in and around water and gives important tips and information about how to be safer when participating in water-based activities, particularly in open water environments.

Research findings show that adults perceive that they are more competent in water than they actually are, especially in open water. This gap between perception and reality leads to an increased risk of drowning. This comes from doctoral research completed by Teresa Stanley earlier this year. “The problem isn’t that people can’t swim or float, but they can’t swim or float as well as they think they can in open water” states Stanley.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our eLearning platform to be relevant and accessible to those that need to learn and grow their water competency the most. The more we can do to grow knowledge that changes attitudes and behaviours, the safer our community will be recreating in, on and around the water” says Nicola Keen-Biggelaar, Chief Executive of Drowning Prevention Auckland.

“We’d like to thank The Lion Foundation for their support in developing this module, particularly given some of the constraints we have as a society in educating face-to-face.”

If you, or someone you love, is planning to participate in open water activities such as boating, swimming, kayaking, paddling, surfing, or snorkelling this summer, take some time to complete this module.

Free adult water safety elearning module

Complete the Adult Water Safety e-Learning module.

Diving Safety Podcast 2

Diving Safety Podcast 2

Clayton continues his tips for safe diving practices, this time focusing on the importance of having the correct gear and how it can help keep you safe while you are diving.
Diving Safety Podcast 1

Diving Safety Podcast 1

Aquatic Educator Clayton Wikaira presents this podcast which draws safety tips and information from his 30+ years of experience diving for kaimoana.

Watch to hear about Clayton’s own close call and learn how to stay safe while free diving for kai.

The West Coast Rock Fishing Safety Project

The West Coast Rock Fishing Safety Project

The West Coast Rock Fishing Safety project is a programme to help educate rock fishers on how to keep themselves and others safer when rock fishing. This project began in 2006 due to a spate of rock fishing fatalities on Auckland’s West Coast in 2005 (5 drownings in 4 months) which needed immediate attention to prevent further drownings.

This year will see the West Coast Rock Fishing Safety project head in to its sixteenth year and the longevity to this is based on effective collaboration by Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland and Surf Life Saving Northern Region.

The project focuses on the interventions aimed at reducing rock-based fishing fatalities and promoting a safety culture among this high-risk group of aquatic recreationalists.

With the inclusion of an Asian aquatic educator to DPA we are able to purposely target Chinese and Korean rock fishers who have been identified to have the highest representation of fishers on Auckland’s West Coast and unfortunately have the highest number of rock fishing fatalities. As Covid-19 is still playing a major role in how we live and the unfortunate increase in job losses, more families may be under pressure financially and therefore seek new ways to source food. Rock fishing may become a more viable option with this activity which only requires a fishing rod, bait and somewhere to fish.

Anecdotally, over the lockdown periods in 2020 (March – May and August) there had been an increase in fishing activity on the West Coast, further increasing the risk of drowning highlighting the importance of the West Coast Rock Fishing Safety project.

Check out the findings of the 2021 West Coast Rock Fisher Safety Report

Key messages when rock fishing:


Be prepared


Watch out for yourself and others


Be aware of the dangers


Know your limits


Most importantly

Assess your own ability to cope with risk and always wear a lifejacket
PLD: Teaching Aquatics – Are You Up To Speed?

PLD: Teaching Aquatics – Are You Up To Speed?

A professional learning opportunity for ALL aquatic education teachers in primary and secondary schools. This one-day workshop will focus on current evidence-based practice in aquatic education and will include FREE in-school support.
Jumping into lake
If aquatic education is to be consistently offered in schools it is the classroom teacher who is best placed to provide this.
(Lynch, 2012)

Competencies developed through (swim) schools are not necessarily applied in a natural aquatic environment .
(Baker, 2019)

Teaching Aquatics

Are you up to speed?

Venue: NZ Marine Conference Room, 85 Westhaven Drive
Date: Thursday 17th February, 2022
Time: 8.30am – 3.30pm
Cost: $50 + GST
(To contribute to costs including refreshments. This PLD is subsidised from various funding sources.

All people are at risk of drowning, the problem is not so much that people are unable to swim or float, but they are unable to swim or float as well as they thought they could in open water.
(Stanley, 2021)

Course Outline

Developing our competence to teach aquatic education will be unpacked in 3 ways:

Exploring The Theory

  • Drowning prevention education is based on development of 15 competencies
  • Understanding the drowning problem
  • What are we doing now?
  • What could/should we be doing?

Pool (practical)

  • Personal competencies for drowning prevention.
  • Great activities for in the pool learning (yours and ours)

Open water environments (‘Dry’)

  • Ideas for developing 15 water competencies in open water
  • Safety management processes for teachers and students

In New Zealand, people of Māori and Pacific Islander ethnicity record higher drowning rates compared with the European population.

(Willcox-Pidgeon et al., 2019)

Swimming is learned indoors while drowning happens primarily outdoors .
(Stallman et al., 2008)

Watch the DPA Mid-Winter Forum Online

Watch the DPA Mid-Winter Forum Online

We’re pleased to be able to share with you the presentation that Teresa Stanley gave at our 2021 Mid-Winter Forum.

Perceived and Real Water Competency and Drowning Risk Among Adults in Open Water: A Wicked Problem

Teresa’s Powerpoint presentation contained a wealth of information and facts discovered during her doctoral research. Please feel free to download this resource.
Mid-Winter Forum Thursday 10 June 2021

Mid-Winter Forum Thursday 10 June 2021

Perceived and Real Water Competency and Drowning Risk Among Adults in Open Water: A Wicked Problem

Join us for our 2021 mid-Winter Form, where this year we are excited to share Teresa Stanley’s journey of research and the doctorate she has achieved. The findings of this thesis have implications for all drowning prevention education to keep people safe in open water.

Come along to hear about the far-reaching benefits we believe this has for the water safety sector. We look forward to sharing this with you.

Please RSVP to [email protected] by clicking the button below.

Drowning Prevention Model by Teresa Stanley

Thursday 10 June, 3pm – 5pm

Drowning Prevention Auckland
85 Westhaven Drive

New Lifejacket Hub – Bethells SLSC

New Lifejacket Hub – Bethells SLSC

Our latest lifejacket hub is now established in partnership with Bethells Surf Lifesaving Club.  This is in response to our Rock Fishing project and our knowledge that many fishers still do not wear life jackets.  One of the barriers to wearing lifejackets is the cost. The intention of the lifejacket hub is to give people access to lifejackets at no cost, or for a gold-coin donation if they wish.

We also have many other lifejacket hubs across Auckland where you can loan a lifejacket for yourself or group for up to two weeks at a time free of charge. Click to find a lifejacket hub close to you.

Many thanks to Maritime New Zealand whose funding enabled the establishment of these hubs.

Recently, two fishermen went fishing at 5am in the morning with no lifejackets and wearing unsuitable clothing. It was still dark outside and they used head torches to navigate around the rocks at South Piha, on Auckland’s West Coast. The surf conditions on this day were not suitable for fishing from the rocks, with 3m plus swells hitting the coastline and strong onshore winds generating further swell.  As they navigated the dark and large waves surging up against the rocks, one fisherman fell into the water and drowned, presumably due to the large surf conditions and lack of a lifejacket that could have otherwise provided flotation. The callout squad from SLSNR was notified just after 5am and a land-based only search was conducted as conditions were unsuitable for lifeguards to attempt an in-water search.

With compassion for the family, we would like to highlight that fisher drownings are preventable and can be avoided by following key safety messages;


Check Weather and Tides


Wear Suitable Clothing


Wear a Lifejacket

Drowning Prevention Auckland, Surf Life Saving Northern Region and Auckland Council are delivering their 15th year of the West Coast Rock Fishing project. This collaborative programme provides further education, awareness and workshops on Rock Fishing safety for our communities. Please contact Harry if you have a group interested to learn more: [email protected]

Engaging Newly Settled New Zealanders in Water Safety

Engaging Newly Settled New Zealanders in Water Safety

At the end of March one of our Aquatic Educators, Leilani Fuemana, presented at the Virtual Pre-Conference Global Injury Prevention Showcase for 2021. Drowning prevention was a key focus of the showcase.

Leilani talked to participants about Drowning Prevention Auckland’s work in ‘Engaging Newly Settled New Zealanders in Water Safety’. Leilani was one of four presenters who showcased in the drowning factors session. Other presenters represented: Surf Lifesaving Australia, Royal Life Saving Society and Water Safe New Zealand.

To engage with newly settled New Zealanders we use the three guiding principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Partnerships, Participation and Protection. Engaging newly settled New Zealanders in water safety is a high priority for us. We know that Tāmaki Makaurau is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities with over a quarter of residents (28%) identifying with one or more Asian ethnic groups. The issue we face is that over a quarter (27%) of Tāmaki Makaurau’s preventable drownings from 2015-2019 identify as Asian or Other. 

Click below to watch Leilani as she shares about the ‘Gender Specific Water Competence Programme’ that was created for women that contributes to reducing this disparity while giving all woman an opportunity to learn how to become more water competent.

New Early Childhood e-Learning module

New Early Childhood e-Learning module

On the eve of a nationwide strategy being released to tackle the country’s drowning statistics, Drowning Prevention Auckland is seeking to highlight the dangers that tamariki can get into without raising an alarm.

The New Zealand Water Safety Sector Strategy 2025 will facilitate a coordinated effort between a number of agencies, including Drowning Prevention Auckland.

Under-fives are a key area of focus in the strategy, with official figures showing that twenty-four tamariki aged under-five have drowned in New Zealand in the past five years (from 2016 to 2020). And it’s not just swimming pools causing issues warns chief executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar.

Mum supervising kids by paddling pool

“When our youngsters get into trouble in the water, it’s not often that they’re able to cry for help. The younger they are, the more likely they are unable to lift their head to keep their airways clear of water. The less comfortable or confident they are in the water, the more likely they are to panic.”

While half of those aged under five who drown do so in home pools, there is an emerging trend of drownings happening in other, often unexpected places – ponds, drains, creeks, even bathtubs.

“Water is particularly attractive to infants and pre-schoolers. As soon as they become mobile, they are able to access any water left in or around the home. Pēpi have drowned in is as little as four centimetres of water,” says Ms Keen-Biggelaar.

Early Childhood
e-learning module

To help parents and caregivers keep tamariki safe, the organisation has added a new training module to its eLearning programme. The training module reinforces the need to provide barriers in and around the home and ensure there is appropriate supervision, especially when outside.

Access the e-learning module

Click the button below to enter the e-learning module

More than three quarters (83 per cent) of those under five who have drowned in the past five years are male, a marked change from previous years when it has traditionally been a lot more even.

“We’re seeing young boys get into trouble more frequently – possibly the result of risk taking and over confidence. It’s really important that you keep a close eye on youngsters you’re in charge of, particularly if they have a tendency to get into mischief.”

Some tips from the module:

Creating Barriers Indoors

Shut bathroom and toilet doors, empty baths after use and store the plug out of reach.

Keep them safe around the home - outside

Empty paddling pools and water containers and store them out of reach, or on their side so they don’t fill up with rainwater.

Open Water Environments

When outside at picnics and get-togethers with family and friends, ensure there is always at least one designated adult supervisor, who undertakes a regular head count.

Supervision is key

Supervise with constant visual contact and proximity. Avoid distractions such as talking on, or looking at a phone.

Diving Safety at Waitangi

Diving Safety at Waitangi

Waitangi Diving wānanga participants

The Drowning Prevention Auckland team were lucky enough to spend a week in Northland for a Waitangi Water Safety promotion, alongside Water Safety New Zealand this February. The week was built around manaakitanga and rangatiratanga with a focus on educating whānau to be safe in, on and around water.

During this week the team delivered their first diving safety wānanga in Northland. They engaged with local hapū and iwi organisations as well as Ngā Puhi iwi social services to help promote the wānanga. Overall, there was a fantastic response from whānau that they were interested in learning about good diving practice. A good number of participants took part in the three session wānanga.

Whānau responded interested

Theory session participants

Practical pool session participants

Open water dive participants

Following the wānanga the team delivered a dive workshop to 30 kaihoe (paddlers) preparing for the Waitangi celebration. Stories were shared about how divers get into difficulty and how risk can be reduced through educating whānau on having the correct gear, using buoyancy aids, knowing your ability and fitness and being familiar with the area and environments. 

In addition, the team ran a two-day dive safety stall at the Waitangi grounds alongside Water Safety New Zealand. These two days were filled with many quality interactions, engaging with just over 280 people. The outcomes were outstanding in terms of educating whānau and hearing their voices and stories as they participated in the wānanga and discussions.

This week was a great opportunity for whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga. Thank you to Water Safety New Zealand for giving us this opportunity, we hope to be back next year. 


When I was young I was taught old styles not having gear. Since doing this course and having all the correct gear its reignited that desire for me to start diving again and to teach my own whānau properly.


Doing this programme open my eyes to having all the right gear especially having buoys to hold your kaimoana, have a rest on and to rescue someone.


I thought I knew a lot about diving but doing this programme I learnt so much. Not having all the right gear can be dangerous especially diving with shoes and not having fins.

Complete our FREE e-learning module: Water Safety for the Māori Community (Te Reo Māori).

Tikanga Marutau Wai Mō te Hapori Māori – E aro atu ana tēnei akoranga ki ngā ngohe wai i roto i te hapori Māori, pēnei mai i te waka ama, ruku kai moana, me te hī ika mā te kupenga.