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Wai (water) is a treasure, it is there to be used and enjoyed, but above all it must be respected.


Drowning of Māori in Aotearoa is a significant issue and presents risk for all whanau.

While Māori are intimately connected to wai (water), they are overrepresented in New Zealand’s annual drowning statistics. On average Māori account for 20-24 percent of all preventable and non-preventable drowning fatalities, despite comprising only 15 percent of the nation’s population.

This tragic fact confronts us, with a determination, to collectively address the issues with the establishment the Kia Maanu Kia Ora kaupapa (vision and purpose) to ‘be safe around water’.

At its heart, this fully acknowledges the intimate connections Māori have always had with wai – the sea and landscape waterways. It is central to Māori identity, as a life-giving force for sustenance, health and wellbeing. Wai is considered a taonga (treasure) with physical and spiritual properties attached to it.

Kia Maanu Kia Ora kaupapa embodies these intimate connections to wai so that the Māori worldview of the physical and spiritual properties of wai are integral to water safety.

It acknowledges that water safety is not merely about teaching water skills. It must start with a deeper understanding and respect for wai that is natural for Māori, which can also lead to the provision of more purposeful drowning prevention for all New Zealanders.

Dr Chanel Phillips' Wai Puna model for kaupapa Māori water safety has been drawn upon to develop the water safety resources available on this site for kaiako teaching tamariki in Years 1 - 8 in Kura and/or mainstream schools.


About Wai Puna

Wai Puna is a theory of Māori water safety to help reduce the high drowning rate of Māori in Aotearoa. Read more

For kura and schools

This website provides kaupapa Māori and mainstream water safety resources for kaiako and teachers in kura and primary schools. Read more

About Water Safety New Zealand

We're a non-government organisation with charitable status working to bring down Aotearoa's high drowning toll. Read more


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