Pool a tool in battle to reduce Maori drownings

By Genevieve Helliwell

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A portable pool has been established in the Bay of Plenty for the first time in a bid to reduce the number of Maori drownings by teaching water survival skills to young rural-based Maori.

Educators at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Kura Kokiri in Welcome Bay welcomed the pool and said it had significant benefits for the 200 local students and wider community members who would use the pool this term.

The portable pool, brought to the kura by Water Safety New Zealand in partnership with New Zealand Post's ActivePost, can be used by 15 students at one time. It measured 10m by 5m, held 50,000 litres of water and took about nine hours to assemble and fill yesterday.

Deputy principal Ripeka Martin said the pool would have a life changing impact on the school's 80 students.

"This means a lot for us and the wider community. From the school's point of view it means the children have the opportunity to learn valuable water safety skills, gain water confidence and have more appreciation for Tangaroa (god of the sea).

The Kia Maanu, Kia Ora (Stay Afloat, Stay Alive) initiative, saw the pool first set up at the end of last year in Port Waikato.The pool will operate at no cost to the school - ActivePost will cover heating and operating costs with Tauranga City Council providing the water and Downer transporting the water to the school. Water Safety New Zealand Maori project manager Cory Sweeney said Maori were over-represented in drowning statistics.

He said figures showed Maori made up 38 per cent of drownings on average but made up 17 per cent of the total New Zealand population.

Mr Sweeney said the pool would be shared between the school and two other local schools - Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Otepou and Te aka ki Tawhaki, and it will be open to the wider community outside school hours.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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