Church urges water safety
A South Auckland reverend has worn a lifejacket to church to push home the water safety message among the Pacific Island community.
Rev Iki Pope of the Onehunga Co-operating Parish has worn a lifejacket in the pulpit and his church hands out certificates in front of the congregation to those who complete water safety courses "so all the families would see".
Pope said a different approach was needed for the message to sink in.
"We have to try tactics to convince people to get the message.''
The church is part of campaign involving ACC, Coastguard and Maritime New Zealand to better educate Pacific people about water safety.
In the past five years, 45 Pacific Islanders have drowned in New Zealand, including So'saia Paasi, 45, and his son Tio, seven, who drowned after their boat also carrying three other children tipped in the Manukau Harbour in May.
In January Zebedee Pua, 15, was swept out to sea and drowned at O'Neills Bay after trying to save a young girl, and in October last year three Auckland men drowned after being swept out to sea at Port Waikato during a Labour Day fishing trip.
Pope said New Zealand waters are different from those in the Pacific Islands and require closer attention.
"Coming from the islands people are familiar and comfortable with the sea," he said.
"But here the context is different. They have to be aware of the cold weather, the currents and the forecasts - it is very different."
Failing to prepare for changeable conditions is where some have come unstuck in the past.
"They have to train to know those things, to help them survive,'' Pope said.
"They have to be well prepared before going out fishing... wear a life jacket, check the forecast and know the contact number to call if you get in trouble."
Running courses where Pacific people access the water - like from Mangere Bridge - also helps.
"Bringing it here makes it easier for them to participate."
Pope said the message is getting through and members of his church are making the changes required to become safe fishermen.
"Our church loves fishing, especially the men. We're trying to solve the issue of the drowning of Pacific Islanders."
A free boat safety check will be held on Saturday from 7am to 1pm at the Mangere Bridge Reserve, along with fishing demonstrations and workshops and lifejacket and fishing giveaways.