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The skills for swimming programme provides 2800 Dunedin primary pupils with partial funding for swimming lessons. Sport Otago contributes $30 per pupil towards lessons.
The programme started in 2009, funded by the Dunedin City Council, Water Safety NZ, Kiwi Sport and the Otago Community Trust.
Parents also meet some of the cost - up to $40 - depending how much the school contributes and if pupils needed transport to a pool.
Children at lower decile schools between 1 and 3, received Sport Otago funding for 10 swimming lessons each year as soon as they started school. At higher decile schools pupils received funding for lessons in years 5 and 6.
"Some children from lower income families cannot afford to be a part of swim schools, so that is why we provide them with extra lessons," Sport Otago skills for swimming co-ordinator Brent Ward said.
For parents at higher decile schools hoping to start their child earlier than year 5, the cost for 10 lessons at Moana Pool was $110.
Dunedin Methodist Mission community and social services manager Sue Foster said for parents on low incomes this was out of reach.
"Most of our clients are more worried about having enough food in the cupboard, than paying for swimming lessons," she said.
Some higher decile schools, such as Anderson's Bay School, provided partly-funded lessons for every year level.
Principal Hamish McDonald said parents pay $36 each year to ensure their child gets swimming lessons all the way through primary school.
However, pupil's in regional Otago did not have the access to Sport Otago's partly funded swimming programmes.
Mr Ward said that was something Sport Otago was focused on changing.
It was now running a trial programme in Oamaru, with plans to expand to Central Otago and Queenstown, Wanaka, where 47% of the region's drownings occurred.
Last year, 131 people drowned in New Zealand, 6 of those in Otago.
Cost of 10 swim lessons
• Hamilton: $135
• Wellington: $117.90
• Auckland: $113
• Dunedin: $110
• Christchurch: $110
• Taranaki: $95
• Invercargill: $91.50
- Cameron Carpenter