Call for more mandatory swim lessons as drownings reach a 14-year high

A swimming educator is calling for more safety lessons for children after last year saw the highest number of drownings in 14 years.

Provisional figures have indicated that 93 people drowned in New Zealand last year, with authorities pleading with Kiwis to take care around the water.

It comes after a horror week with a dozen people dying in water-related incidents across the country.

Six people have drowned in Auckland since Friday, according to Surf Life Saving, with two others sustaining serious neck injuries.

Swim teacher Jackie Foster told Breakfast that authorities needed to make life-saving safety instruction available to all kids.

Foster is a managing director for Skillz4life – an organization that provides water safety instruction in Auckland schools.

“At the moment, it’s mandatory through to Year 6, but I believe that should be up to Year 8 – just to push that a little bit further.

“We go into certain schools with pools that we are funded for – but I believe that all schools need to be funded,” she said.

“You know, some schools are missing out, and they shouldn’t be. It should be all schools.”

The safety instructor said children’s schooling years were a “crucial time” for children to learn about water safety.

“We need to give a lot of our tamariki time in the water – and they’re not getting it.”

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to urge beachgoers to take precautions to keep themselves safe.

Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s chief executive Matt Williams said in a statement that lifeguards needed to rescue 50 people over the weekend.

He said there was a “clear correlation” between drownings, “which all occurred either at unpatrolled beaches, or outside regular patrol hours, and lifesaving interventions by lifeguards”.

“Simply put, if you swim at a patrolled beach, during patrol hours, in between the flags, you are going to have a lifeguard nearby who can respond immediately if something happens,” he said.

“If you swim at an unpatrolled beach, or outside patrol hours, you are placing yourself at an incredible risk.

“These deaths were tragic, but some may have been preventable if lifeguards were actively patrolling the area.”

Additional advice included keeping a close eye on young children, watching out for rip currents, and always swimming with a companion.

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