Waitaki Irrigators launch innovative water safety film


Children and water is a recipe that spells danger for the managers of irrigation scheme infrastructure.

 In a bid to reduce potential risks this summer, the Waitaki Irrigators Collective has funded an innovative water safety DVD which has been distributed to schools and swimming clubs in the Waitaki and Waimate Districts to warn local children and families about the dangers inherent in the scheme’s open race channels.

Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company Race Manager Ross Bishop says it’s the first time they’ve used animated characters to promote water safety, but he thinks they’re onto a winner.

 The nine-minute animated film tells the story of a brother and sister exploring the countryside when they come across an open race irrigation channel. Luckily Bobble the water safety character catches up with the pair before they get into trouble and the animated characters then discuss the dos and don’ts of water safety around water races.  Digital Media graduate Logan Adams created the film after Mr Bishop saw an opportunity to take a different approach to water safety.

 “We have always had a fear in our irrigation scheme because it is an open channel system. It’s a health and safety nightmare because of the siphons and drop structures and it’s really quite difficult to put physical barriers around the infrastructure. We’ve tried in the past and it’s caused huge problems. I’ve talked to race men from other schemes and they have similar fears,” says Mr Bishop.

 With a changing population in the district, Mr Bishop says it’s even more important irrigation scheme managers take a pro-active stance to warn people away from swimming in the races.

 “We are a more nomadic society now due to dairying and there are a lot of different families coming through, many of them are immigrants. The local school has increased its roll three-fold and some of these new people coming in are not totally aware of the situation.”

 Waitaki Irrigators Collective Policy Manager Elizabeth Soal says the DVD will be valuable for other open race schemes and their investment in the film – to the tune of several thousand dollars – is seen as an investment.

 “Given there have been some tragic events around water, we want to keep children in our district safe. We’ve got the DVD out before school finishes so they will see these messages before the weather gets really hot and they are out and about over the holidays.”

 Water Safety NZ previewed the DVD before the collective began distributing free copies to Waitaki and Waimate schools and Ms Soal has secured the support of the local principals association.

 As well as its educational programme, the Lower Waitaki scheme uses floating booms attached to red buoys to draw attention to the most dangerous parts of the canal network.

 “They are there as a kind of warning. If anyone falls in there’s also something there that they can grab onto,” says Mr Bishop.

 IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says the Waitaki’s water safety DVD is another example of the connectiveness of irrigation schemes to their communities.

 “The DVD is an innovation that addresses a very real concern in our industry, which is how to ensure the safety of the public around irrigation scheme infrastructure. We think it’s a brilliant little film and applaud the Waitaki Irrigators Collective for coming up with this idea and funding its development,” says Mr Curtis. 

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