World champion silver medallist and double Olympian Lauren Boyle is supporting a campaign to save 130 of New Zealand's school pools from closing due to lack of maintenance funds.
She has joined Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) as an ambassador to inspire youngsters about the importance of learning water safety and swimming skills.
"School pools are a really important part of getting that exposure and feeling confident and comfortable around water," said Boyle, who discovered she was good at swimming at the age of seven - thanks to the pool at Auckland's Whenuapai Air Force Base, across the road from her school.
"School pools are especially important in rural areas which don't have big council facilities and they become a community hub for hanging out for swimming and recreation at the weekend."
Boyle is training for the Rio 2016 Olympics but also cheering on progress in the WSNZ bid, which was prompted by 156 school pools closing in six years and a further 130 schools saying they could not afford to run pools this summer.
"We are concerned that we may already be starting to see the impact of fewer school pools on the 15-24 age drowning toll," said WSNZ chief executive Matt Claridge.
He announced an unspecified cash donation from sun protection brand Ambre Solaire which would allow up to six schools to stay open this summer.
The brand's parent company, Garnier, would also help raise in-store awareness of the pool-saving campaign.In addition to a cash boost for two Waikato schools, announced yesterday, WSNZ had also received help from the Waikato Filtration company.Protector Aluminium has also offered a free fence for any school pool that needed one.
The principal of Ohinewai School, near Huntly, Mr Nesan Govender, said it faced exorbitant costs to get its pool back into use after an algal outbreak on top the $3000 annual maintenance bill.
Sponsorship would put its November-March programme of swimming sports, inter-school events and try-athalon back on track for 130 pupils.
Silverdale School principal Stuart Armistead said that without the new sponsorship the 250 students could not use the pool daily this summer.
"This is a huge opportunity for our school and we will now be able to have a full season."
Maoribank School, in Upper Hutt, is the third one selected for sponsorship by WSNZ, which said it would announce a further three sponsorships for high priority schools on the national list of 130 which asked for help.
School pools at risk of closing: 11 Northland, 13 Waikato, 21 Auckland.
Pools saved so far: Silverdale School (Hamilton), Ohinewai School (Huntly), Maoribank School (Upper Hutt).