Children diving into water safety

Two Australians were among 16 children who last week spent part of their summer holidays completing a week-long water safety course at the Wakatipu High School Pool.

Run by Wakatipu Swim School teacher Jane Hughes, the course - which was free and open to children aged 10 and above - centred on teaching children about being safe in the water in various situations, rather than learning to swim.

Included in the first intake were siblings Georgie (11) and Sam (9) Ward, of Sydney.

Georgie said her family was in Queenstown on holiday and her mother had been looking for holiday programmes for them.

The children often went swimming, but had learned more than they expected during the course, including information they were keen to pass on to their father.

''Dad has a kayak but he never goes out in it - he wants us to go on it, but he doesn't know the safety rules. Now we can tell him.''

Mrs Hughes said there was space for up to 30 children for each intake.

One began yesterday, the next begins next Monday and the final course on January 27.

The Water Safety New Zealand-funded courses are free of charge.

Included were kayaking skills, understanding rivers and how to read them, learning what to do in a rip, information about hypothermia, an ''ABC'' of CPR, and what to do if they fell out of a boat or were in a sinking boat.

On Friday, the fully-clothed children immersed in water were told the ''Earnslaw has sunk'', and quickly learnt how to survive in the cold waters of Lake Wakatipu.

After swimming 50m, they then had to go back and find lifejackets, fit them while in the water, before adopting the ''help position'' and the independent floating position.

They then created huddles and removed themselves from the sinking boat.

For many it was their first time swimming in clothes and gave them a better understanding of the weight of garments, and what they could do if they faced the situation in real life.

''This is about survival and having fun,'' Mrs Hughes said.

The courses,

from 10am-noon Monday to Friday, are open to children aged 10 and over, at any level of swimming ability. To register, text 027451-1161.