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Little swimmers . . . With their caregivers nearby, 4-year-old swimmers (from left) Kolton Matthews, Loui Seddon, Van Maw, and Zoey Cogle show off their wristbands as part of the Waitaki Aquatic Centre's new system to identify younger swimmers needing supervision. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

The Waitaki Aquatic Centre has introduced a new system to keep Oamaru’s little ones safe.

The centre recently made it compulsory for children under the age of 8 to wear wristbands, indicating that a caregiver was nearby.

The policy was aimed at keeping children safe, as those aged up to 9 were at the highest risk in water.

Pool manager Matthew Lanyon said although Oamaru tended to be better than other parts of the country, there were a lot of cases of “pool alone”.

People would drop their children off, but not supervise them at the pool.

“It was a real issue because it led to a number of incidents, and a lot of intervention and rescues.”

Children 8 and under must be actively supervised by caregivers 16 or older.

Children under 5 must be at arm’s length.

Already in use in other parts of the country, the new wristband system ensured underage children were linked to an adult.

“A caregiver needs to be within arm’s reach at all times to be able to provide assistance.

“It’s just an easy visual check.”

The wristbands also gave lifeguards reassurance that caregivers were around to look after the children.

“It’s a less invasive check to make sure people are safe.”

After the death of a 7-year-old at an aquatic facility in July 2020 and a subsequent investigation by WorkSafe NZ, Recreation Aotearoa made recommendations to all Poolsafe facilities in the country.

WorkSafe NZ recommended systems of “readily identifying” children under the age of 8 and outlining expectations of what active supervision meant by the way of signage and information cards.

Mr Lanyon said the system had been well received, and people understood why it was in place.

Parent Amy Leen thought the wristbands were a good idea and appreciated that she no longer had to go in the pool with her son Jaxson during his swim lessons.

If children were not accompanied by an adult, they would not be allowed in the water.

Children under 5 and their accompanying caregivers would need to wear a red wristband.

Children aged from 5 to 7 would wear a yellow wristband and required active supervision by their caregiver.