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Water Safety New Zealand

Water Skills for Life 2023 Funding Round

Water Skills for Life funding – Principal sponsor ACC, with support from the Lotteries Grants Board

This funding support aims to lift the water survival competence of young New Zealanders so that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to have a safe, fulfilled life connected to water. The focus here is supporting water-based programmes where Water Skills for Life is a foundational component. We also want to prioritise support for communities least likely to be able to afford programmes on their own.

This funding can’t be used to maintain or improve assets or repay debt.

What is Water Skills for Life?

Learn to Survive

Water Skills for Life is not a ‘learn to swim’ programme. It is structured ’learn to survive’ content that can easily be incorporated into any existing learn-to-swim or water-based programme. Research highlights that all tamariki should have this knowledge by age 13.

Water Skills for Life emphasizes the importance of making safe choices around water and understanding the dangers associated with different aquatic environments, including swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Water Skills for Life is usually delivered in a pool; however, if there is no pool in your community, it can still be delivered in suitable local waterways.

Water Skills for Life has been specifically designed to ensure that tamariki are learning the knowledge and skills needed to give them the greatest chance to survive and thrive in and around water.

Water based programmes demonstrating a focus ‘learn to survive’ through incorporating the Water Skills for Life content


Funding support is currently focused on those tamariki whose whanau and communities are least likely to be able to afford to fund this themselves. We want to ensure that these kids don’t miss out.

Supporting schools with an equity index score of 446 or greater (previous deciles 1-6)


Programme content has been specifically designed with the needs of these year groups in mind. If additional resources are available, we have a preference to see all years groups engaged at schools already supported before additional schools are bought into the programme.

Targeting students from year groups 1-8


Examination of the varied approaches taken across Aotearoa in the past illustrates that the 8 x 30 min approach is the one that delivered the best results for students at reasonable cost. Alternative approaches should not be submitted unless agreed with Esther Hone at Water Safety New Zealand.

For schools without their own pool, the approach is eight x 30-minute sessions per student in one school term at a suitable pool close by. These lessons are most often undertaken by swim school instructors


This approach increases the likelihood that students will have regular pool time focused on practicing water survival skills and knowledge. Swimming New Zealand already delivers this support in Auckland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Canterbury but opportunities to support other regions will be considered. Contact Esther Hone at Water Safety New Zealand to find out more about this opportunity if you are interested.

For schools with their own pool, the approach is to support school teachers to deliver the programme to their students in their school pool. The focus here is not to teach students but to support teachers so that they have the capability and knowledge to play their part in the delivery of this programme to their students.  Individually customised four x 30-minute poolside sessions are provided to meet the specific needs of each teacher.


This means that they have completed the Water Skills for Life online learning prior to teaching the programme and participate in self and external assessments, as required.

Instructors will need to be appropriately qualified


Any organisation that we support that is working with children and young people must have a child protection policy in place that is consistent with the Children’s Act 2014. It is considered best practice to have a child protection policy as they help build a strong culture of child protection across a workplace by encouraging early identification and referral of vulnerable children. All organisations who work with children and young people are encouraged by Oranga Tamariki and Sport New Zealand to adopt a child protection policy. Note that this requirement is in addition to the legal requirement under section 31 of the Children’s Act 2014 to ensure that all people who work with children are safety checked before their employment or engagement commences, and that these safety checks updated every three years.

Have a child protection policy in place


This Code of Conduct has been developed to ensure that those organisations receiving funding from Water Safety New Zealand act in an appropriate manner.

Agree to operate in accordance with the Code of Conduct


Assess and report student achievement using the agreed system.


What we Fund

We value the diversity of different approaches that have been developed to respond to community need across Aotearoa. But organisations seeking funding from Water Safety New Zealand must demonstrate that the following requirements can be met:

To stand out from the crowd, here are the other things that make good programmes great:

  • Engaged students who see this as a highlight of their school week.

  • Good community support with multiple funding sources.

  • Innovative ways to get kids to think about the real-world situations they will encounter. Students learning more than just what to do; knowing why skills are important and when they will be helpful.

  • Continuous learning and improvement driving increasing programme impact.

  • Effective business planning and adaptability resulting in an ability to always deliver the programme regardless of the issues encountered.


Assessment criteria

History tells us that applications for funding support will far outweigh the money available. Last year, our funding was two to three times oversubscribed. Decisions will be based on the following criteria:

  1. Alignment with the funding requirements (set out above)

  2. Alignment with long term drowning risk by region (programme coverage in upper north island regions, where most people drown, is a priority)

  3. Record of delivery (reliability in delivering the programme, student achievement results)

  4. Collaboration and leverage (engagement, support and funding from others to help the programme succeed and be sustained over time)

  5. Cost effectiveness (programme cost per student participating)


You will have noticed that applying for funding from us is occurring 6-8 weeks later than previous years. Unfortunately, the funding that we receive isn’t confirmed until late July, early August each year. This determines when decision can be made. We also received feedback last year that the delay between applying for funding and making decisions was far too long and that this drove frustration and uncertainty. For this reason, we have delayed and shortened the process. But our commitment is to make decisions within the same timeframe as we last year. Decisions were made and communicated late August, and this will also be the case this year.

Apply Here

2023/24 Water Skills for Life Fund

Water Safety New Zealand is pleased to announce that the 2023-2024 Water Skills for Life funding round is now open for applications.

Key Dates:

  • 21 July 2023 - Funding Round Open

  • 11 August 2023 (5pm) - Applications Close

  • End of August 2023 - Notification of outcomes to applicants

Get in Touch

Contact Esther Hone ( or 0275745066), Interventions Lead for Water Safety New Zealand or Gavin Walker ( or 021899798) to discuss your proposal or clarify any concerns before applying.

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