Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

New Zealand's water safety champion named

Meri Leask.
Meri Leask.

A Bluff woman has been named New Zealand's champion of water safety.

Meri Leask was given the award for her life-long commitment to keeping Southland's fishermen and boaties safe.

She is also credited with singlehandedly keeping Bluff's marine radio station running for more than 30 years, from her own home.

She received her outstanding contribution gong at the Sealord New Zealand Water Safety Awards in Queenstown last night.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Matt Claridge said there has not been a more deserving recipient in the history of the awards.

"Here's a person who is on call 24-7, who fields up to 160 calls from boaties on a busy day and has assisted in more than 110 incidents - and she's been doing it for more than three decades on a voluntary basis," he said.

"Meri has made a significant contribution to the safety of the skippers and passengers onboard Southland's vessels."

Surfing NZ also picked up the award for awareness at last night's ceremony, for its Have A Go Surfing Days for school children around the North Island.

Coastguard Boating Education's Safe Boating Programme was given the prevention award, for a campaign aimed at reducing the injury or drowning toll.

Mr Claridge said the calibre of this year's awards entrants was very high.

"There is a huge amount of incredible work being done in New Zealand's water safety sector and the recipients of the 2013 Sealord New Zealand Water Safety Awards are making an enormous contribution to keeping New Zealanders safer in the water."


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