Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Fast-food mats push water safety

Campaign uses new tactic - and translates message into several languages - to try to cut drowning rates

Some of the highest drowning deaths are among Maori, Pasifika and Asian people. Photo / Thinkstock
Some of the highest drowning deaths are among Maori, Pasifika and Asian people. Photo / Thinkstock

Being safe in the water this summer is a message that is starting to pop up in all kinds of places - including fast-food tray mats.

In the past five years, an average of 105 people have drowned in New Zealand.

A huge number of those deaths happened over the summer holidays and some of the highest drowning deaths are among Maori, Pasifika and Asian people.

This summer, the water safety message will be seen on 600,000 tray mats in KFC restaurants around the country.

The "be surf safe this summer" water safety tips will also be translated into Maori, Samoan and Mandarin.

The mats tell people to be prepared by learning how to swim and be safe in the water, watch out for others, especially children, and be aware of rips.

KFC is a charity partner to Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ); which started its beach patrols over the Labour weekend.

"The beach is New Zealand's favourite playground but it can also be a dangerous place," said SLSNZ chief executive Paul Dalton.

Having the messages in different languages meant they would appeal to more people and therefore stick.

"These simple messages can help save lives and by having them on over 600,000 tray mats in KFC stores - and in translation - we'll be able to extend both visibility and reach."

Water Safety NZ figures show there have been 550 deaths by drowning between 2008 and 2012 and 200 of those were of Asian, Pasifika or Maori descent.

Chief executive Matt Claridge said it had introduced several programmes aimed at Asian, Maori and Pasifika groups - mainly men. They include the Kia Maanu Kia Ora - Stay Afloat Stay Alive - project and the Pacific programme aimed at delivering boat safety messages.

"A lot of Maori, Pacific and Asian communities are going out for the kai moana and there's sometimes a real rush to get in there and get as much as you can," said Mr Claridge. "For some families, it's about getting dinner on the table and sometimes they won't be thinking about safety."


• 550 people have died by drowning in New Zealand between 2008 and 2012.

• Of those, 200 were people of Asian, Maori or Pacific ethnicity.

• Among 2013 victims to date:
* 10 Maori people
* 6 Asian people
* 2 Pacific people

- Source: Water Safety NZ

- NZ Herald

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