Efforts to spread the water safety message into Auckland's diverse communities are stepping up.
Auckland's Chinese community is the target of a new learn to swim programme to be run by the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust and the YMCA.
The programme is specifically designed to teach the Chinese community swimming and water safety skills and is being run in conjunction with the YMCA Lagoon in Panmure and Water Safety New Zealand.
Trust manager Gloria Gao says while water sports are popular among the Chinese community many do not actually have the skills to participate safely. She says a 2012 survey of Chinese Aucklanders showed an alarming 72 per cent believed watersports to be "completely safe".
"But many people are not aware of the dangers so it's important that they learn water safety and swimming skills."
She says the lack of safety awareness among new Chinese settlers stems from the radically different environments people find in New Zealand.
"Many people emigrate from inland China so they have never had the need to learn to swim or any water safety skills."
This lack of awareness has even lead to fatalities, Water Safety New Zealand's national community manager Dave Lockwood says.
"The Asian community is over-represented in the number of people that drown each year," he says.
"The best way to address the issue is to reach people through their community networks."
Recent immigrant Benjamin Liao came to New Zealand in 2012 and has been attending the lessons with his daughter Lisa and wife Xing Heung.
"It's a very good course," he says.
"Before we started, none of us had any swimming skills. Xing Heung couldn't even float, but now she can.
"I'd definitely recommend it to others".
The programme is part of a wider water safety campaign to spread the message "Water is Changeable, Safety is Valuable".
Visit ymcaauckland.org.nz for more information.
- East And Bays Courier
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