Hewitt passing on hard-earned experience

Former navy diver Rob Hewitt, who spent 75 hours treading water when lost at sea in 2006, leads a sea survival course for young Maori at Karitane. Photo by Gregor Richardson
Former navy diver Rob Hewitt, who spent 75 hours treading water when lost at sea in 2006, leads a sea survival course for young Maori at Karitane. Photo by Gregor Richardson

Rob Hewitt knows a thing or two about sea survival, and has been sharing his knowledge with Dunedin youth this week.

The former navy diver was lost at sea in 2006, spending 75 hours treading water before being rescued.

Since then, he has become a water safety crusader, and during the past week has taught sea survival skills to about 75 secondary school-aged children from the wider Dunedin area.

The day skipper and sea survival courses were run as part of Kia Maanu, Kia Ora - a partnership programme involving ActivePost and Water Safety New Zealand.

Mr Hewitt said the training - offered throughout New Zealand - was specific to Maori and aimed to initiate a greater awareness of the importance of safety in relation to boating and other ocean activities.

''Maori are water-based people ... These day skipper courses equip participants with best practice boatmanship skills and ensure that our people return home to their families safely,'' he said.

Mr Hewitt spent time at Otago Boys' High School taking pupils through the programme, before repeating the message to Maori groups in Karitane.

Some of those taught by Mr Hewitt will have the chance to help sail a double hull waka to Stewart Island between April 12 and May 13.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said Maori were consistently overrepresented in New Zealand's drowning statistics.

''This is about engaging with a community for whom water is a major part of its culture, and working with them to move towards viewing safety as a key consideration,'' he said.

The programme covers boat handling, safety equipment, navigation, tides, weather, regulations, handling emergencies and marine knots.

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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