• New water safety programme to combat region’s poor drowning record

New water safety programme to combat region’s poor drowning record

A local insurance brokering business is backing a new water safety programme to be delivered to 1000 Hawke’s Bay primary school students. 

Hurford Parker was successful in applying for a grant from AIA Vitality to give back to the local community. 

Hurford Parker Director Will Parker said this was originally “earmarked pre COVID but following all the disruptions during COVID, we are so pleased that we have been able to reinstate this with the new Water Safety Programme at the Regional Aquatic Centre.”

Will added that the family-owned business decided to support the newly developed Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust’s water safety programme due to reading about a recent Water Safety New Zealand report that revealed six lives were lost to drownings in Hawke’s Bay in 2022. 

“We care for the community which we are a part of and with the Cyclone impacting many people in Hawke’s Bay we think the timing to give back to young children and provide them with confidence in water safety is a great initiative,” he said. 

“We don’t want to hear of devastating water-related tragedies impacting Hawke’s Bay families. Water Safety is a life skill, so not only are we providing vital skills that can save a life now, but will continue to save lives as children grow into adults. 

“It’s all about mitigating risk and that’s a fundamental of our business."

Water Safety New Zealand reported 93 drownings in 2022, calling it a ‘national disaster’ and the worst since 2008. Hawke’s Bay’s 6 drownings was a 40% increase on the region’s average of 4.3 drownings over the last decade. 

The Hurford Parker Water Safety Programme is being offered to over 1000 Hawke’s Bay school students from years 4 to 8 at the Regional Aquatic Centre in Hastings. 

Every child received a free 2.5 hour water safety programme which has been approved by Water Safety New Zealand and receives a Hurford Parker Water Safety Programme certificate. 

HBCFCT Swim School Manager Harshi Dassanayake said the programme includes games, in-water safety positions such as help and huddling and rescue chains, dealing with water shock and hypothermia and learning to throw rescue ropes. 

Students also learn on boat safety skills such as a scuba exit, boat instability and finding air pockets under an up-turned board. 

Parkvale Primary School was one of the first schools to participate, enrolling over 150 years 5 and 6 tamariki and principal Rueben Cooper said the programme was so successful that they hope to involve all students going forward.

“This water safety programme is essential for our tamariki and rangatahi in this region. It provides important water and life skills children will carry with them and be able to put into practice in a real-world scenario.

“Our drowning stats across Aotearoa New Zealand are not great reading, this programme is an important step in addressing this,” he said.

Water Safety NZ continues to find the reasons why the numbers were so high for 2022 - but there was a common theme around the people getting themselves into dangerous situations in water.

Water Safety NZ said a positive step has been the introduction of “water skills for life” training for school-aged children saying "really starting to show sensible, well-educated, preventative approaches to what they are doing in and around the water".

HBCFCT also offers a free water safety and learn-to-swim pilot programme for 6000 primary school students aged from 5 years to 13 years.

Caption for photo: Hurford Parker director Will Parker with personal and business risk adviser Sian Woodham and HBCFCT Swim School Manager Harshi Dassanayake with students from Parkvale Primary School.