The alarming death toll at beaches last summer - and around water generally - has prompted a Tauranga swim school to take preventive action.
BaySwim are offering discounted lessons for young, would-be lifeguards and a public water safety programme.
There were 19 beach drownings between Labour Weekend and Easter last summer – up 36 per cent or five drownings on the previous summer. It made for some of the blackest statistics in many years. There were 108 drowning deaths around New Zealand last year, 81 of which were preventable, where water safety intervention could have made a difference, according to Water Safety New Zealand.
Against that tragic backdrop, BaySwim will be offering a public water safety programme starting this month. It's also introduced discounted lessons for young, aspiring surf lifeguards, an initiative in support of Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service's Junior Surf ‘Nipper' programme.
BaySwim manager Matthew Strange says water safety and coastguard kids' boat safety courses are in BaySwim's learn to swim programme, but children's water safety classes would also be offered to the general public as a separate programme from January.
The one-hour classes, for 5-to-12-year-olds, will be held as a school holiday activity between January 15-26 at Memorial Pool in Tauranga.
“We run water safety sessions to help ensure our seaside community has the knowledge and experience to keep safe in and around water,” says Matthew.
“These sessions aren't just for kids - we run adult group sessions too, which can help save their life or the life of a loved one.”
The water safety classes will cover how to stay afloat, the importance of staying together, how to rescue others, the correct use of life jackets, how to use them in the water and keeping calm and signalling for help.
BaySwim's nippers' discounted swimming lessons will assist with the development of swimming and all-round water ability in conjunction with surf club training. As BaySwim members, they will also gain free, unlimited access to Bay Venues' four community pools to practise.
The surf lifesaving season began over Labour Weekend, and Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says the “grim” statistics mean people need to take their own safety at beaches far more seriously.
He urges people to choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags. Last summer surf lifeguards around the country rescued 612 people and assisted another 1184.