Water safety conference for resort

Queenstown will host an international conference on water safety next October as Water Safety New Zealand continues a campaign to reduce New Zealand's drowning rate by encouraging young people to learn to swim.

Behind road accidents and accidental falls, drowning is the country's third-highest cause of unintentional death, according to Water Safety New Zealand.

The International Water Safety and Aquatic Education Conference, scheduled for October 3-5, 2013, will be attended by more than 300 delegates. It will cover a range of initiatives, concepts, research and programmes related to water safety and aquatic education.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge, who was in Queenstown last week to plan for the event, said Queenstown's high tourist numbers meant "ongoing" education was essential.

"One of the primary interactions is going to be signage," he said, before noting councils around the country were often averse to installing more signs.

"In my view, there should be more."

A key approach in water safety has been teaching children to swim through Water Safety's Swim and Survive programme and Mr Claridge said funding was close to being finalised to launch the initiative in the Queenstown Lakes.

The programme gives children 10 free swimming lessons a year, a number which Mr Claridge hopes to increase.