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Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) will continue to focus its investment in drowning prevention on Water Skills for Life and it has also launched a new research fund to find new insights into this country’s drowning problem.

Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death, the second highest cause of death by unintentional injury for 1 – 24 year olds and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand.

In 2017 there were 92 preventable drowning fatalities. The five year average (2012 – 2016) is 79. While male drownings continue to dominate, eight more females fatally drowned in 2017.

New Zealand’s drowning rate per 100,000 of population is twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK, and over the past ten years the cost of drowning deaths and injuries is in the order of $4.79 billion

WSNZ’s annual contestable investment programme is funded primarily by the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board with additional funds from ACC and corporate sponsors. $2,223,177 was available for distribution by WSNZ.                   

NZLGB funding has increased by $236,888 from $1,301,258 in 2017/18 to $1,538,177 for 2018/19.

“The water safety sector is predominantly non-Government funded and supported by volunteers. This additional funding is a welcome boost and will help save lives” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills.

Corporate sponsorship for investment increased in 2018/19 primarily due to new commercial partner The Warehouse supporting Water Skills for Life, and funding from Protector Aluminium to support our work around under five safety.

“We are very grateful to our corporate sponsors for the generous contribution they are making to water safety in New Zealand” says Jonty Mills.

WSNZ will invest the $2.2m into drowning prevention through two separate funds. The Drowning Prevention Fund which supports projects that deliver interventions that make a difference to New Zealand’s drowning toll; and The Water Safety Research Fund which supports research projects that make a contribution to meeting the water safety sector’s unmet knowledge needs.

The priority for The Drowning Prevention Fund is Water Skills for Life. This initiative was created to address dropping levels of aquatic education in schools and set a basic minimum standard that is taught to every primary school student.

As well as teaching basic water survival skills Water Skills for Life raises awareness about the risks posed by our various aquatic environments and how to assess those risks. It is easier to teach than technical swimming and fun for students to learn. 34 organisations will receive funding of $1,219,427 (a $35,866 average).

“The funding programme aims to ensure that the greatest possible number of children, particularly those in high risk categories, such as low decile schools and hard to reach communities, receive this vital training” says Jonty Mills.

With the Water Safety Research Fund WSNZ is investing in organisations and projects that demonstrate a strong drowning prevention rationale and are aligned to the high-risk priority areas identified in the Water Safety Sector Strategy 2020.

This year’s recipients from The Water Safety Research fund are:

  • Surf Life Saving Northern for research into Beach Safety Forecasting.
  • Drowning Prevention Auckland for research into Perceptions of water competencies, risk and aquatic activities amongst older adults.
  • Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers (KASK) for work on the KASK Paddle craft fatality listing.
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand for their research into Evidence-based supervision and surveillance on New Zealand beaches.

“The drowning toll in this country has plateaued over the last ten years. These research projects will help us gain new insights into how we can keep New Zealanders safe in, on and around our waterways” says Jonty Mills.

“The social and economic cost of drowning far outweighs funding to the water safety sector. Strategic and innovative initiatives are required to tackle this important issue.”

To view the full list of funding recipients click here

For media enquiries please call Ben Christie on 021770285 or email

$2.2m Invested in Drowning Prevention

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