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Water safe . . . LeapinÂ’ Frogs swim school co-ordinator Jo Cheesbrough, Gore Aquatic services manager Martin Mackereth and aquatic centre head receptionist Marie Reynolds hold some of the equipment which will be used to teach children water safety skills as part of a new revamped programme for schools at the centre. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

A new emphasis on being safe in the water could help save lives in the future, Martin Mackereth says.

At a Gore District Council extraordinary meeting last week, the Gore aquatic services manager revealed plans to revamp the learn-to-swim programme.

Last month the programme was cancelled due to a lack of funding.

Gore aquatic services staff and Mr Mackereth have redesigned the programme with a water safety theme.

Mr Mackereth said studies showed that being a confident swimmer did not stop people from drowning.

“Just because you are a competent swimmer doesn’t mean you have the survival skills to self-rescue or save yourself,” Mr Mackereth said.

In the past it was thought if people could swim 200m they could save themselves.

“If you look at the stats, a lot of those people who have got themselves into trouble are those ones who are good swimmers or physically capable.

“That’s why a lot of your programmes now are based around water skills for life and it doesn’t mean swimming is scrapped completely.”

In the revamped programmes, skills such as being able to submerge, float and move through water would still be taught because they were essential for water confidence and being able to self-rescue.

Strokes like butterfly would not be taught and the breaststroke style had been modified.

“We do a survival breaststroke which is where your head’s up rather than down.”

A survival sidestroke and backstroke were taught.

“It’s learning those skills [so] that you can swim in water for a much longer period of time with less energy.

“It’s learning those key skills that will give them a higher chance of keeping themselves safe.”

Risk management was also an important part of the programme where children were taught about the dangers that might be present in and around water.

Skills included teaching children how to read how safe a body of water was, using a lifejacket, how to walk through weed and what air pockets were.

“The reality is we have a river running through town.

Teaching children was a good way to spread the water safety message.

“A lot of time they go home and educate parents.”

The new programme would start in term four.