The AC Baths’ Aquatic Programmes Team won the inaugural New Zealand Water Safety Awareness Award for its Swim for Life and Lake Taupo Water Safety programmes.
Water Safety New Zealand General Manager Matt Claridge says the programmes have dramatically improved the water safety awareness and skills of Taupo school children. He says community support, professional management and highly skilled trainers all contribute to its success – and helped secure its win.
“We received a lot of very strong nominations for these awards, however AC Baths’ really stood out,” says Mr Claridge. “The programme feedback from participants, parents and principals speaks volumes about the caliber of the training provided. We also noted the strong financial support it receives from Taupo District Council and the local community – another indication of the programmes’ value and reputation.
“We are very proud to present this award to AC Baths,” he says. “These programmes and the way they are run are excellent role models for other facilities and trainers across the country. A lot of hard work goes into preparing and managing these programmes, but the results are worth it.”
With local support, AC Bath’s Swim for Life programme has been running for five years and has received more than 40,000 student attendances. The programme enables students between five and 18 years, including those with special needs, to receive 10 free (or subsidised) swimming lessons. Swim instructor training is provided free of charge to teacher aides, special needs caregivers and parents, to support the student’s learning.
AC Baths’ Aquatic Programmes Supervisor, Lil Hancock, reports a strong relationship with local schools – all of whom are eager participants and regularly book their student in for Swim for Life swimming lessons.
AC Baths Manager Virginia Munro says she is very proud of her team’s achievements. “We were quite overwhelmed to win the award, but I couldn’t be happier. It’s great to receive this level of appreciation and recognition for the hard work that our aquatics team has put in over the years.”
Ms Munro also praises the work of the Lake Taupo Sports Advisory Council (LTSAC), whose funding makes sure the swim programmes are attainable for the entire community. “Our aim is that every Taupo child has the opportunity to be safe in and around the water, and this wouldn’t be possible without the support of LTSAC, so a big thank you to them.”
The Lake Taupo Water Safety Programme, which was introduced last year, has also been well received by schools, with more than 2,600 students participating so far. It has a RiverSafe component and gives students an opportunity to develop skills using rafts, kayaks, snorkeling and surf boards. During school holidays, the programme is offered to the wider community.
Mr Claridge says it is interesting to note that two of the three New Zealand Water Safety Award winners come from inland areas. He says people tend to focus on swimming skills needed for the sea, but it’s important to consider the local environment.
“Rivers and lakes are more common recreational areas for Taupo locals – and swimming skills are no less important just because Taupo isn’t coastal,” says Mr Claridge. “Thanks to the good work done by AC Baths and the council, the local community is conscious of water safety and aware of the risks and skills required to safely enjoy water activities.
“It’s a great credit to Lil Hancock and her colleagues in the Aquatics Programmes team that they have been able to raise awareness and understanding within the community.”