Pool full as free swims for under-8s pays off

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A Waitaki District Council initiative to encourage parents to go swimming with their children at the Waitaki Aquatic Centre is gaining traction, more than six months after it was launched.
In August, as part of the council’s 2015-25 long-term plan, a scheme was introduced to give children under the age of 8 free entry to the aquatic centre with a paying adult.
Waitaki Aquatic Centre manager Matthew Lanyon said the initial uptake was slow, but people were now aware of the initiative and were taking advantage of it.
“We’ve seen a really good uptake since the October holidays, then more so at the Christmas holidays. We had a pretty good summer.”Between July 1, 2015, and February 29 this year, 20,850 child admissions and 9077 adult admissions were recorded.
Of those children, 5871 were under the age of 8.
In the same period in 2014-15, 18,203 child admissions and 6797 adult admissions were logged.
Mr Lanyon said the numbers were encouraging and justified the decision to establish the initiative.
“We were never quite sure how it was going to go. Six thousand out of 20,000 is a big chunk, so that’s very pleasing.
“That’s a lot of kids who are getting the benefits, from ratepayers, of swimming in a safe environment.”The large increase in the number of adults swimming with their children was great to see, he said.
“Part of the whole idea was to get more parents swimming with their kids.
“The water-safety messages have been pretty prolific over the summer and I think there are more adults keen to swim with their children. When the under-8s being free came in, I think it encouraged them to come again.”He hoped the initiative would lead to more children joining the aquatic centre’s learn-to-swim programmes, which included an outreach programme run in conjunction with Water Safety New Zealand and KiwiSport, Mr Lanyon said.
He believed that would help boost the already strong Oamaru Swim Club, which recently won nine medals at the national age group championships in Auckland.
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