Sport Northland, Water Safety NZ, Top Energy and the Northland District Health Board have once again teamed up to ensure as much as possible is being done to keep Northlanders safe in and around our rivers, lakes and our expansive coastline this summer.

At a primary and intermediate school level, the Northland WaterSafe and Top Energy WaterSafe programmes are a partnership between the four organisations that aim to improve the fundamental swimming skills, water safety awareness and associated survival skills for children aged 5 to 12 years.

The successful, award-winning Top Energy WaterSafe programme has been running in the Far and Mid North for the past 22 years due to the fantastic and long-time support from Top Energy Ltd.

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And thanks to partnerships with Water Safety New Zealand and the Northland District Health Board, the same model programme is offered to Whangārei and Kaipara primary and intermediate schools under the title of the Northland WaterSafe Programme.

As well as raising awareness of water safety and swim-to-survive skills in our tamariki, the programmes also provide teachers with the confidence to deliver these skills in an ongoing way at their schools.

The goal is to achieve zero preventable drownings and reduce the number of hospitalisations due to near drownings in Northland, through the embedding of water safety skills as a life skill to our tamariki.

These programmes are free and available for Year 1-8 schools in Northland.

For the older age brackets, Water Safety New Zealand's "Swim Reaper" is back this summer to shock and encourage people to be safe in and around the water.

The Swim Reaper character was created several years ago by Water Safety NZ in partnership with ACC to target the at-risk demographic of young men aged 15 to 30.

Armed with his dark sense of humour and with summer officially here, he's likely to be spotted at various popular swimming spots around Northland.

In the past Swim Reaper has even taken to social media, with one of his top posts reading, "Want to be more zen with your drowning? Just go with the flow. Find a calm spot in the surf and ride that rip all the way out to sea."


As Water Safety NZ chief executive Jonty Mills says, the Swim Reaper messages are not only aimed to shock and entertain, but also to make people think about water safety.

"New Zealanders love to play in the water - it is part of our way of life. But it also carries risk and we need people to be aware of the dangers. The Swim Reaper does a great job of reminding people about those."

There have been 71 preventable drownings in New Zealand so far this year. Of those, 13 were in Northland, which is 18 per cent of the all drownings (Northland's population is only 3.8 per cent of the NZ population).

However, it is pleasing to see that none of these Northland drownings have been under 15 years of age, which shows the impact the Northland WaterSafe and Top Energy WaterSafe programmes have had on keeping young people safe in and around water in Northland.

So stay safe this summer Northland, because we don't want any of our whānau coming face-to-face with the Swim Reaper.