One of a series of public forums will be held in Hamilton on October 25 to develop a new water safety strategy for the Waikato region.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills says a group of local community leaders brought together by WSNZ recently met to set the vision for the strategy.

The four activity areas the strategy will focus on are: Water safety skills development; Recreational boating safety; Fresh water safety; Beach and ocean safety.

He says every region faces its own challenges when it comes to drowning prevention and the way forward is for the solutions to be community led.

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"Despite all the efforts from everyone over the last 10 years, the drowning toll isn't coming down. Something must change. We need a cultural shift in the way we approach water safety," he says.

"We need communities to get involved and lead the change."

In 2017, Waikato had one of the six highest drowning tolls in New Zealand, despite a reduction in preventable drowning fatalities from 2016.

Moreover, during 2017, 20 per cent of all river drownings occurred in the Waikato region.

"Addressing these challenges requires engagement with community leaders who understand the issues," he says.

This includes engagement with iwi and Māori organisations in the Waikato.

"Māori are overrepresented in Waikato drownings and over the past decade the Māori drowning rate in the Waikato was higher than the national average," said Mr Mills.

The governance group set up by WSNZ to lead the strategy in the Waikato is made up of Matthew Cooper, CEO Sport Waikato; Simon Perry, CEO Perry Group; Donna Flavell, CEO Waikato Tainui; Dennis Turton, CEO Trust Waikato; Jonty Mills, CEO Water Safety New Zealand; Vaughan Payne, CEO Waikato Regional Council.

The community is invited to attend discussion forums for the strategy.

To register for the forums email Sport Waikato at reception@sportwaikato.org.nz or by calling Helen Hall-King on 07 858 5388.

The Hamilton forum is on October 25, 5pm to 7.30pm at Sport Waikato, Brian Perry Sports House, Akoranga Drive. There will also be forums in Te Kuiti on October 26, and Taupo on October 29.