An overwhelming number of rescues of children at Central Otago District Council (CODC) pools has prompted new rules about pool supervision for children under 10.
Ninety-six percent of rescues at CODC pools between March 2018 and February 2023 involved children.
In the past five years, 52 rescues have been carried out in which lifeguards have had to intervene and thus prevent a major emergency.
Fifty of these rescues were of children. At least 14 of them were children under 5, and 10 were under the age of 10.
They were all near misses, but still, these were scary numbers, CODC aquatics manager Carly Getson said.
‘‘To prevent children from drowning, they need active supervision around water,’’ Ms Getson said.
‘‘Two of the biggest risk factors for drowning are lack of swimming ability and lack of close supervision — two risks that regularly occur at our Council-operated pools around the district.’’
Under the new rules, children under the age of 5 must be supervised by an adult or caregiver over the age of 16.
The supervisor must have no more than two children who are under 5 in their care and the child or children must be within arm’s reach at all times.
Children under the age of 10 must be actively supervised by an adult or caregiver over the age of 16 at all times. The rules come into force from July 1, where the council will introduce orange and purple wristbands so lifeguards can immediately identify children in the target age groups.
An orange wristband was for those under 5 and a purple wristband was for children aged 5-9.
‘‘The wristbands immediately identify which children are most at risk, and hopefully they’ll serve as a reminder that parents and caregivers need to watch their children,’’ Ms Getson said.
Lifeguards alone cannot supervise every child, she said.
‘‘Lifeguards are not babysitters.
‘‘All too often parents and caregivers are not watching their young children.
‘‘As a result, lifeguards spend a lot of time talking to parents and caregivers, reinforcing Council’s supervision rules, and highlighting the risks associated with failing to provide active supervision.’’
The rules and wristbands will be trialled initially at the Cromwell and Alexandra pools for three months, and if successful, rolled out on a mandatory basis to all pools.
The bands will be a mix of reusable and single use.
Children who come to the pool regularly will receive the reusable silicone wristbands.
For the trial period, everyone else will be provided with the single use, with a view to moving to the reusable bands.