About Waterwise

Safety, Independence and Fun

Waterwise Kayaks

Waterwise offers children an opportunity to build confidence in the marine environment and to understand water safety.

All children have the chance to attend regular sessions in their senior primary years to develop skills in sailing and kayaking. Many children who participate would not otherwise have this opportunity.

Volunteer Power

Waterwise Instructors at play

Waterwise is run entirely by volunteers, mostly parents, who complete a standardised training and certification programme, learning everything the way the children learn, and how to keep everyone safe while having fun.

Our instructors, along with parent helpers contribute over 5000 hours of their time each year. Hundreds of instructors have participated over the years, finding their own reward in helping children build resilience and confidence on and in the water.

How it all Started

Princess Diana officially launches Waterwise

On a fine spring day in 1980, a couple of Milford School parents took a break from their working bee to gaze out at the water of Lake Pupuke. “Wouldn’t it be great,” one said to the Headmaster, “if we could run outdoor education sessions for the kids here on the water?”

The following week, a meeting to thrash out this new idea attracted over 80 attendees from multiple schools and local organisations. An enthusiastic subcommittee was formed, an architect engaged for a boatshed, and generous sponsors lined up to fund the dream. Waterwise was born!

After two years of hard work by a fantastic group of people, Pupuke Schools Waterwise was officially opened by Her Royal Highness Diana the Princess of Wales on 19 April 1983. The weather on the day was terrible...the event spectacular.

From these auspicious beginnings Waterwise grew into a broader movement, with 13 branches now operating and a national association formed to set standards for training and safety.

Waterwise on the Devonport Peninsula

Waterwise at Narrow Neck beach

Devonport Schools Waterwise was conceived by a group of parents and staff from schools on the peninsula in 1987, and after 3 years of fundraising was officially opened on 24th November 1990.

The early years were based in the old Bayswater clubhouse of the Takapuna Boating Club; however, the constraints of the tidal flow meant that the sessions were limited to a six hour window around high tide. Since 1990 we have been based at the Wakatere Boating Club on Narrow Neck Beach.

Devonport Schools Waterwise is a registered charity with seven member primary schools: Bayswater, Belmont, Devonport, Hauraki, Vauxhall, St. Leo’s and Stanley Bay. Instructors from each school operate half day sessions for their students (except in the winter months) using the Waterwise equipment. Each school is represented on a management committee. We are very fortunate to have the support of over 100 trained and qualified volunteer instructors, many of whom continue with Waterwise for years after their own children have left primary school.

The Impact

Waterwise Opti
Waterwise kayaks

Since its inception, Devonport Schools Waterwise has served over 20,000 children, helping them to push their limits, overcome fears, build teamwork, and make independent judgements in a safe environment.
Children growing up here are surrounded by coastal waters and understand them to be both a source of fun and danger. Waterwise shows them how to have fun responsibly and challenge themselves to take part in a wider world beyond the beach.

For a few children it also ignites passion for the world of sailing, giving them the confidence to compete in the sport. Chris Steele was one such sailor, who caught the bug through Waterwise at the age of 10. He then went on to win the Optimist World Championships.