The Gore District Council has managed to pull together a funding package to ensure primary school children within its boundaries will get free lessons focusing on water safety skills.
The new Gore Aquatics Programme (GAP) will replace the G ‘n’ D programme, which was cancelled last month after major funding partner the Mataura Licensing Trust advised it was unable to provide funding due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
Councillors yesterday welcomed news of the package, which will see the Council contribute $28,000 and the Mataura Licensing Trust $12,000. Councillors were told the Gore Pakeke Lions Club was likely to confirm $10,000 funding as well.
Gore Aquatic Centre Manager Martin Mackereth said the cancellation of G ‘n’ D lessons had provided an opportunity to construct a programme addressing some of the issues raised by schools, as well as embracing the emphasis nationally of teaching water safety skills.
“Schools have been telling us they want a water skills based programme as many pupils already attend swimming lessons.”
Other changes reflecting feedback from schools include shortening the programme to one week – “they (schools) say two weeks is too tiring for the children and there’s too much time out of school” – and offering the programme only during term 1 and term 4, which are the warmer months.
Mr Mackereth said GAP will teach important aspects of swimming, such as flotation, submerging and propulsion through the water. It will also feature safety skills, such as reading aquatic environments, how to walk through weed air pockets, boat safety and self- rescue skills.
GAP will be available to all primary and intermediate school children in the Gore District, unlike the old programme that also included schools outside the Gore District, but within the MLT catchment.
Mr Mackereth said talks with Southern REAP have ensured Hedgehope, Te Tipua and Tuturau primary schools would be catered for through REAP’s SwimSafe Southland programme.
The intention is to talk with Southland District Council and Clutha District Council about swimming lesson options for the primary schools in their areas that previously received subsidised lessons, he said.
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said it was good to have the MLT back as a funding partner, as well as the Pakeke Lions Club.
“It’s great to be able to reinstate a new, streamlined programme so soon, as it was never our intention to cancel the free lessons indefinitely,” Mr Hicks said.
The GAP will start in Term 4.