Water safety focus for Porirua

Obeda Ngatuakana, left, and Matetoru Tangi Joe from Porirua College work on their knot-tying skills with Ocean Sports ...

Obeda Ngatuakana, left, and Matetoru Tangi Joe from Porirua College work on their knot-tying skills with Ocean Sports instructor Sam Price.

Wellington Ocean Sports has applied for $30,000 from Mana Community Grants Foundation to assist its safe boating education programme aimed at reducing deaths from drowning.

The programme, which was offered to about 100 Porirua College students recently, has been designed to help people understand the dangers associated with being around water.

So far more than 600 students have completed the programme, but former Wellington City councillor John Morrison wants to see more Porirua/Mana children aged between 11 and 16 take part, and said the funding would be vital to making that happen.

Water Safety New Zealand statistics indicate 90 people drowned in New Zealand last year, up from 79 in 2013. The 2015 toll is at about 40.

Morrison said such statistics suggested people were not prepared.

"We want people to go be able to enjoy all the water sports in a safe way and it's sad to say Porirua has its own statistics," Morrison said.

In 2012, Albert Alapati, a former Porirua College head boy, drowned after he was swept out to sea in a rip near Titahi Bay, which made the recent safe boating lessons for the school even more relevant.

Morrison said learn to swim programmes were important, but so was understanding the need for safety around the water.

"We want to help school children understand the dangers associated with being around water."

"People have to understand that the weather can change and that tides can turn and that there are dangers. That's what this programme helps to explain."

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He said it was important for everyone to know what could happen.

Morrison said the programme was about increasing people's knowledge of the danger and getting them to think about things first, so that they were prepared.

Ocean Sports manager Matt Wood said there was a focus on swimming as a cause of drowning, but that 90 per cent of people who drowned could swim.

"When the kids come here they are taught weather awareness, hazard identification and safety practices," Wood said.

Wellington City Council and the yacht club contributed initial funding for the programme, which is now supported by ACC drowning prevention funding and Water Safety New Zealand.

The programme has been about for some years, but Wood said since Morrison came on board a few months ago, it had made quicker progress.

Of the 100 Porirua College students involved in the programme, 20 are going further and completing an associated NCEA course.

Titahi Bay Intermediate is set to be the next school to take part in the programme.

Morrison said funding from Mana Community Grants Foundation would only be used for investing into the Porirua/Mana area.

He said in the past support has been very helpful and that an outcome would be know in the next few weeks.

 - Kapi-Mana News

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