By Te Karere


Three people have drowned during this year’s Christmas period, and despite the number being down from last year, one surf lifeguard says its three too many.


Andrew Newton from Mt Maunganui Surf Club is on a special mission to train up more young Māori in the water to prevent drownings in the future, he says, “No one likes waking up to newspaper articles that talk about people passing away in the ocean, we can do better.”


He also says that competitions’ like the Groms Challenge encourages youngsters about being safe on the water, “We are on the back foot because not a lot of kura have swimming pools anymore they've pulled out in the last couple years.”


There are around 22 Māori out of the 120 competitors lining up to take the challenge and they're making waves.


Māori competitor Tarquin Magner said, “Surf lifesaving has always been there because I’m a swimmer and it suits my strong abilities in that sense and I just love being in the water.”


Mia Gardiner, another Māori competitor also said, “Surf lifesaving is not a sport that you can just be naturally good at, you can't just be good at running or swimming you have to be an all-rounder and it takes a lot of hard work to be good at everything.”


Newton encourages more Māori to get involved so drowning numbers can come down, “It’s a scary statistic, but for me, it comes down to funding and education. It would be good to fund an education programme for our young people that can pass it on to their friends and whānau.”


He also hopes that his programs can turn the tide on New Zealand’s drowning statistics.