Tell us about you and your role in the Bay of Plenty
I joined in 2019 as the strategy manager and report directly to a Water Safety Bay of Plenty Governance, operating out of Sport Bay of Plenty.
Collectively, we are responsible for implementing the Bay of Plenty Water Safety Strategy, and working with the community and stakeholders to identify opportunities and develop water safety initiatives that will lead to a lower preventable drowning rate in the Bay of Plenty.
My role as the strategy manager is to facilitate the strategy, progress the priority actions and report progress and findings back to the governance group.
Tell us more about the strategy, its background and priority actions. What's involved?
The Bay of Plenty has the fourth-highest regional drowning rate in New Zealand, but what's more concerning is that the 10-year trend is steadily increasing, suggesting this drowning rate could get much worse.
In an attempt to combat this, Water Safety NZ spent 18 months working with local stakeholders, councils and the general community to develop the Bay of Plenty Water Safety Strategy.
There are seven key priority actions in the strategy - the Water Skills For Life programme, Māori water safety, Coastguard and boating education, investment in drowning prevention initiatives, stakeholder collaboration, male-specific messaging, and signage.
We have designed the strategy to be flexible and review it annually to ensure it is in line with the latest trends, preventable drowning data and progress.
What do you think contributes to the Bay of Plenty's increasing drowning rate?
We're blessed to have so many different avenues for water-based recreational activity here in the Bay. From the beaches to the lakes and rivers, we're surrounded by water, allowing us to indulge in any water sport.
This, combined with a rising population, poses a high risk for accidents to happen.
For the most part, residents are well behaved, but unfortunately we're still seeing the same behaviours that lead to drowning. For example, not wearing lifejackets, not checking the forecast before people go and underestimating the dangers of lakes and rivers.
What representation is currently on the Water Safety Bay of Plenty Governance?
We attempted to cover all bases of water safety when recruiting for the Water Safety Bay of Plenty Governance.
At present, our chair is an independent, then we have representatives from Water Safety NZ, Surf Lifesaving NZ, NZ Sports Fishing, Sport Bay of Plenty, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, and a councillor from Bay of Plenty Regional Council – who is also heavily involved in Coastguard.
Why are you so passionate about water safety?
I'm an ex-competitive swimmer and have been a surf lifeguard at Piha beach for 17 years where I've spent every summer growing up, so have always been in, on, or around water.
I love being in the water and it's my vision to have the community share this experience in a safe way.
What is the one thing you enjoy most about working in the sector?
The people. I get to work alongside such a broad range of people from different organisations who are all just as passionate about water safety as I am.
Everyone in the sector is dedicated to lowering the New Zealand drowning rate and I feel blessed to work alongside such amazing people.
In my role, I work alongside Water Safety New Zealand, Coastguard, Coastguard Boating Education, Maritime NZ, the local harbourmaster, councils and Surf Lifesaving NZ.
If you could give one piece of advice to our residents this summer, what would it be?
It's hard to give just one piece of advice, but being water safe doesn't take much effort – just ensure your tamariki are within arm's reach, wear a lifejacket when you're on a boat or rock fishing, tell someone when they can expect you back and know your limits – and if in doubt, stay out.
Finally, how could someone get in touch with you if they'd like to know more?
They can head to watersafetybop.co.nz or email firstname.lastname@example.org.