An investment in drowning prevention is coming to the Bay of Plenty.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) announced today that locally-driven initiatives with a focus on primary school aquatic education and kaupapa Māori water safety programmes were going to be rolled out.

WSNZ through Bay Venues Ltd and Evolution Aquatic Tauranga is funding 4335 primary school children in Bay of Plenty to participate in 10 Water Skills for Life lessons with a trained instructor.

WSNZ also has a new funding partnership with ACC for a kaupapa Māori approach to
drowning prevention interventions.

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In 2018, 66 people lost their lives in New Zealand in drowning incidents.

This was the second-lowest toll on record, but already this year there have been 55 preventable fatalities.

Bay of Plenty has the fourth highest regional drowning rate in New Zealand and the number has been increasing over the past 10 years.

Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

Bay of Plenty had the second-highest preventable drowning toll of 10 behind Auckland with 14 in 2018.

A Water Safety NZ spokesman said the best way to tackle New Zealand's drowning problem was through investment in grassroots education with young people.

The programmes gave children the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe in, on and around the water, he said.

WSNZ was also funding Te Waiariki Purea Trust to provide a water safety skills
programme for 120 children in years 1 to 8 in schools that were remote or close to potentially hazardous waterways.

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These included Murupara, Maketū, kura around the lakes, Sunset, Awhina and Kokiri.

WSNZ chief executive Jonty Mills said a new approach was needed to tackle the over-representation of Māori in the drowning statistics.

"We need to improve water safety outcomes for Māori and there was a real need for culturally appropriate interventions created and delivered by Māori for Māori."

WSNZ was funding Bay of Plenty Water Safety Community Day on October 20.