Scott Bartlett has spent a lifetime in the water and he believes it's vital that all children should know how to swim.
On August 1 he is opening his own swim school at Mount Maunganui and will be catering for babies as young as 6 months and children up to the age of 12.
"We live on the coast and kids need to swim properly and survive in the surf," said Mr Bartlett, Surf Life Saving New Zealand's national coach. "If they fall into a pool, they have to have the basic confidence to reach the side and get out - and not drown. We want to offer something to get kids in the water."
He has taken over a warehouse in MacDonald St and converted it into a modern swim centre, building two pools and two changing rooms, and installing a state-of-the-art heating system.
The pre-school pool, 6m long, 4m wide and 800mm deep, will be used for babies 6-36 months and children 3-5 years. The adjacent pool, 10m long, 6m wide and 1m deep will handle children aged 5 to 12.
Adults who want to learn to swim can have one-on-one sessions at the Bartlett Swim School, which is staging open days on July 24 and 31. It will be fifth swim school in Tauranga.
Mr Bartlett said 200 children had already booked for swimming lessons, including 25 from Omanu Primary School.
"It's getting harder for teachers to take time out and run a swimming programme," he said.
"At our school the children will come out a proper swimmer and performing the four basic strokes."
The children will be taught during half-hour sessions in maximum groups of four, and Mr Bartlett is employing three other swimming teachers.
The sides of the pools have been built with a steel structure and covered by reinforced plywood, and vinyl will be placed over the concrete bottom.
The sides and top of the pools will be painted with a non-slip paint. The dual heating system controls the interior and water temperatures.
Mr Bartlett will be using bromine in the pools rather than chloride.
He ran his own swim school in New Plymouth before moving to Tauranga to become a full-time professional coach at Omanu Beach Surf Life Saving Club. He has left that job to start his new venture.
Australian-born Mr Bartlett has been the national surf life saving coach since 2009 and his contract runs through to December next year.
He won a silver in the surf race and a gold in the relay at the 1996 and 1998 world championships, representing Australia. And he coached the New Zealand team to second place in last year's world event.