Safety initiative in doubt

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Waimakariri District Council community development facilitator Nicola Trolove shows Fernside School pupils a video to get them talking about being safe around dogs. Photo: David Hill
Waimakariri District Council community development facilitator Nicola Trolove shows Fernside School pupils a video to get them talking about being safe around dogs. Photo: David Hill
By David Hill

The future of a successful Waimakariri schools rural safety programme is in doubt as a funding shortfall looms.

The Ministry of Health-funded ''Down the Back Paddock'' programme has been run by the Waimakariri District Council for about 20 years, but the funding has stopped.

The council's rural safety co-ordinator, Kerry Miles, says there is enough funding to keep the programme, which is unique to North Canterbury, going for another 12 months, but he is keen to hear from potential sponsors.

With the district's strong rural heritage, Mr Miles says rural safety is a key area of focus for the council.

Children living in urban areas also visited rural properties and many were being injured through unsafe practices or lack of knowledge about rural risks.

''Down the Back Paddock is a rural education programme aimed at increasing children's and teachers' awareness of the risks associated with a rural environment,'' Mr Miles says.

''The purpose is to better educate children and, through them, adults to help create a better safety culture on farms and lifestyle blocks in the future.''

Experts were invited to deliver safety messages on a variety of subjects and 11 sessions of 20 minutes were offered to pupils at Fernside School, near Rangiora, over four days last week.

Topics included water safety, dog safety, poisonous plants, road safety, fire safety, bird and river safety, large animals, Civil Defence, poisons, quad bikes and electricity.

Mr Miles says the programme aims to visit at least one school in the district each term and he already has interest for next year.

Fernside School deputy principal Andrew Spencer says his staff and pupils enjoyed having the Down the Back Paddock programme at their school.

''We are a rural school and we like to maintain our rural flavour, so having people with specific areas of interest to help with our teaching is really invaluable.''

He says his school will hold its own mini A&P show next month, as well as supporting the Rangiora Show.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand North Canterbury deputy principal rural fire officer Dale Wilhelm says it is important to target the younger age group with a fire safety message.

''I worked that out when my daughter came home and said, 'Dad, what's our escape plan'?''

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