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Stay safe at sea

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2012
Iki Pope
JASON OXENHAM
KEEP SAFE: The Rev Iki Pope of the Onehunga Co-operating Parish is spreading the water safety word to members of his church.

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A campaign to better equip Pacific Islanders for New Zealand's maritime conditions has kicked off and is gaining momentum with a summer of fishing just around the corner.

A multi-agency effort involving ACC, Coastguard and Maritime New Zealand is aiming to make the tragic drownings that have made news in recent years a thing of the past.

Community groups are also involved and among those helping deliver the programme is the Rev Iki Pope of the Onehunga Cooperating Parish.

Mr Pope says the key message is that New Zealand waters are different from those in the Pacific Islands and require closer attention.

He says many Pacific Islanders are confident in their home waters where they might have fished and paddled for years. The water is often warmer and the weather less changeable.

"Coming from the islands people are familiar and comfortable with the sea," Mr Pope says.

"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.

"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."

Getting the message through to the Pacific community also requires a different approach, Mr Pope says.

"We have to try tactics to convince people to get the message.

"For example, I wore a life jacket in the pulpit in church one Sunday, and we give certificates to those who complete water safety courses in front of the church so all the families would see."

Running courses where Pacific people access the water - like from Mangere Bridge - also helps.

"Bringing it here makes it easier for them to participate."

Mr Pope says 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, but there is the issue of drowning and problems with water safety," he says.

"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.

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