Cancelled children's swim lessons raise concerns about water safety
Staff shortages have hit a children's learn-to-swim programme on Auckland's North Shore and a water safety advocacy group has heard similar reports from around the country.
On Auckland's North Shore, parents found out at the end of term one, their children's swimming lessons at a council pool would not be run in term two, a 7-year-old's concerned parent says.
"To cancel all junior swim lessons with only a fortnight left of the term and make no attempt to provide alternatives, shows how little regard they have for what should be a core part of their business: teaching young kids how to swim," said the parent who wished to remain anonymous.
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Birkenhead Leisure Centre blamed the cancellation on a staffing shortage and referred parents to other council pools at Albany (14 kilometres away), Takapuna and Glenfield, he said.
The issue of staff shortages had also affected other locations around the country, which concerned Water Safety NZ, chief executive Johnty Mills said.
"As a nation surrounded by water, learning practical water-survival skills at an early age is essential," Mills said.
"Water is part of our culture and it is the inherent right of every Kiwi kid to come out with a broad range of water skills."
New Zealand has the highest preventable drowning toll in the in the developed world. Not something to be proud of, he added.
Auckland Council's head of active recreation Rob McGee said, while Birkenhead Leisure Centre fills the recruitment gap, the centre had to temporarily reduce the number of classes offered.
"We have offered customers affected the opportunity to continue their swimming lessons in nearby centres and will resume a full schedule of swimming lessons at Birkenhead Pool and Leisure Centre as soon as possible.
"There are less than 500 people on [Albany] the waitlist," McGee had told the North Shore Times in an earlier email.
Kaipatiki Local Board member Danielle Grant said that, while the local board has no say in the leisure centre, she can appreciate how frustrating it is for parents.
"It does mean good news for jobs available as life guards, or swimming instructors," she said.