History of Devonport Schools Waterwise

A Right Royal Beginning

The New Zealand Waterwise concept started in 1980, with 2 teachers from Milford Primary School, sitting on the edge of Lake Pupuke, saying, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child in the area had a chance to have a go sailing, kayaking and an understanding of water safety, in a safe environment, as part of the school curriculum.”

With the help of Yachting New Zealand and the NZ Education board, a lower level of Sailing Instructor was created, a Waterwise Instructor.

So, after a few years of fundraising and planning permission for a purpose built facility and launching deck, the first Waterwise Centre was opened at Lake Pupuke by Princess Diana, in 1983, her only official New Zealand engagement.

Waterwise was never intended as a learn to sail program. It was designed as a program to operate in schools promoting confidence in the marine environment, through education and a thorough understanding of water safety principles. The program was such a success that other schools around Auckland started looking at how and where to start a Waterwise centre of their own.

In 1987

Parents and teachers from the Devonport peninsular decided Narrow Neck beach would be a good venue and approached Wakatere Boating Club. Unfortunately, WBC did not want optimists as part of the club fleet. At that time the fleets were Sabots, Frostbites and Sunbursts and therefore they didn’t want optimists sailing off Narrow Neck Beach.

Takapuna Sailing Club, which housed the junior sailors and optis at Bayswater, were happy to allow Waterwise to rent space in their club for the optimists and later some kayaks. Lynton Bates and Janet Garret (TSC) with representatives from the contributing schools, took 3 years to raise enough money to buy the equipment necessary to set up a Waterwise Centre. YNZ trained the Instructors at Lake Pupuke, but training soon moved to Bayswater and run by Lynton.

On Saturday 24th November, 1990 Takapuna Schools Waterwise officially opened. With 7 schools, Devonport Primary, Stanley Bay Primary, St. Leo’s Primary, Vauxhall Primary, Belmont Primary, Bayswater Primary and Belmont Intermediate. Hauraki School at this stage decided to withdraw. Clare Coolam from the Water Safety Council gave Instructors basic kayak training on an ongoing basis. At this time, Waterwise WW volunteer Instructors numbered 34 with nearly 400 children participating from the schools.

In October 1991, WW organised a sponsored Fun Run/Walk where all the children ran or walked a 3 km circular route from Woodall Park around the Golf Course, with prizes for the children with the most sponsors. This raised about $11,000.

WW Sessions at Bayswater were only able to run 3 hours either side of high tide. This meant for instance, when it was low tide at 12 noon, the whole day was not available for sailing or kayaking. (When the tide was out, it left behind mud flats). Coupled with the fact that the prevailing wind was from the south, this meant that out of a possible 100 sessions (10 weeks of 10 sessions a week) only 25 sessions were utilized. Frustrated by this, the committee again approached WBC and asked to rent 2 lockers to store 4 Optis, 1 patrol boat and wetsuits and vests, for use when the tide was out at Bayswater. WBC agreed to this.

From Bayswater to Narrow Neck

In 1992, paying the same rent and membership as any other WBC locker holder, Waterwise moved into the first locker which opened at both ends. WBC soon became unhappy with the fact that WW were using their facility and the beach more than just at low tide. However, BIS found it far more convenient at Narrow Neck than Bayswater, as the kids could walk from school.

The WW locker was broken into twice and the patrol boat, vests and wetsuits were stolen.

Over the next couple of years more Instructors were also WBC Committee members. In 1993, with opposing members also leaving the club, WW were officially allowed to rent 8 lockers with use of the lecture room. The 2 patrol boats were chained up in the 4th locker.
Significantly, WW came with a $10,000 bank balance from a facility upgrade donation they had not used at Bayswater. WBC placed conditions on WW, to only operate during school hours, except during the annual Secondary Schools Regatta, which then was 3 days. Janet and Lynton followed from Bayswater, whilst remaining TSC members, to support WW at Narrow Neck.

In March 1993 WBC realised that the children who had completed WW were not up to the club level of sailing, to join in Sunday club sailing. As a result, WW started a ‘BIS Extension Course’ from 3-6pm during the week. This course was run by WW Instructors with 6th form students assisting along with guidelines from Janet Watkins, the then WBC Sailing Master. The course organisers opened a bank account and operated as a separate organisation, with WW charging WBC $2 per boat per hour rental. Optimists could now be seen sailing alongside sabots on Sunday mornings.

1993 was a busy year. Another sponsored Fun Run/Walk was organised in October, this time from Narrow Neck around the cliffs to Cheltenham Beach and back along Vauxhall Rd, raising around $13,000. * Takapuna Schools Waterwise was renamed Devonport Schools Waterwise. St Josephs Takapuna joined DSWW and instructor numbers were up to 51.

The “fire”and rebuild

On the night of May 3rd, 1995 following a successful Instructors Regatta that morning, the WW lockers were completely destroyed by an arson attack. The private boats in the neighboring lockers also suffered serious smoke damage.

The aftermath of the fire showing the destroyed Waterwise boats and sheds Fireman at the burnt wreckage of a stack of Waterwise Optis

Over that winter, the lockers were rebuilt with WBC insurance monies. WW was able to use the $10,000 from the unused Bayswater donation to have a concrete apron laid. This covered an area from in front of WBC garage doors west towards the lockers up to the beach access road. This is still in use today. At the same time, a pipe was laid underneath to take a security line from the club to the WW lockers allowing 24/7 alarm monitoring. Smoke detectors were added.

The Instructor’s Course led by Carol Donaldson, in progress at the time of the arson attack, was able to continue at the Pupuke WW centre. With enormous help and donations, DSWW officially reopened in October ready for the new season, with all new equipment (except for the 6 smoke damaged opti hulls stored in the garage as extras) and $27,000 in the bank. For safety reasons the club allowed WW to store the 2 patrol boats in the garage, so WW didn’t need to rent a 4th Locker.

From the Fire until 2001

In 2001 WBC decided that they would handle the money taken from the Sailing School students for opti rental and instructors/helpers had to apply to get reimbursed for expenses. These courses continued to be run by WW instructors twice annually, after school from 4-7 pm, taking up to 18 children in each course.

On 10th June 2002, YNZ called all WW centres to a meeting. The following is an excerpt from that meeting.

With quotes from Simon Wickham YNZ ‘YNZ need to cut back on expenses with less staff and something needs to go. We see WW as an educational program covering water based safety activities, which doesn’t increase yacht numbers like “Learn to Sail” programs do.’ YNZ feel they have ‘lost control servicing the program in regards to safety and risk management’

“AYBA have expressed an interest in managing the program and have formed a sub-committee to discuss the future of WW. Richard Brown of Murray’s Bay Yacht Club and AYBA (Auckland Yachting and Boating Association) spoke about re-constructing WW to make it flow better into the clubs. As he has been unable to make this happen at MBYC, he thinks we all need re-constructing”

A show of hands revealed no one wanting help from AYBA. In contrast 100% were in support of forming a combined WW, even if it meant paying for WW own hats, manuals, certificates and all admin costs. A date was set for nomination of a steering committee, “with a view to promoting school involvement of the formation and operation of school WW and affiliation and association with national bodies of common interests, ie canoeing.” Lynton Bates and Janet Garret were also involved with this lengthy process, fully supporting WW. The steering committee met every 2 weeks to get a NZSWWI Constitution, manuals, certificates, revalidations, and logos organised. Steve Cornelious from Hibiscus Coast WW headed the steering committee and went on to become NZSWWI Chair. A position Steve still holds some 15 years later.

The new independent WW

October 7th, 2002 10 WW Centres became signatories to the Constitution of the New Zealand Schools Waterwise Inc. Murrays Bay WW joined later that year becoming the 11th centre.

In 2004 DSWW fundraised for 12 new individually sponsored sails. NZSWWI use the photo of all the new sails rigged on the beach in a row for their web site header.

In November of the same year, St. Joseph’s School Takapuna moved to Murray’s Bay WW. This enabled Hauraki Primary a permanent time slot. At this time BIS were not using any of their sessions, so the committee started looking for another school to take their 2 slots. Rosmini College and Apple Tree School were approached. No school took up the offer and eventually a year later, BIS rejoined WW.

Once again everything was running smoothly. Events on the calendar included an annual Schools’ Regatta, Instructor’s Regattas, Instructor’s Training and Refresher Courses.

By 2005, with the bank balance running low it was time to start thinking about replacing all the equipment donated after the fire, now 10 years old. It was decided the schools’ annual fees had to go up again, as they had previously increased to cover WBC rent increases. This time however, any increase would be helping WW directly. A public relations sub –committee was set up to start investigating WW options.

Jane Brockies from Hauraki School took over the Kayak Training from Jocelyn and worked with NZSWWI in starting to set up a formal Kayak Program including an exam.

In 2006, the committee took on a fundraising drive for grants to eventually replace the ageing opti fleet. The sub-committee began looking at options for replacement opti ‘s to purchase.

DSWW now had 82 volunteer Instructors
BIS stopped using sessions altogether as their 2 chief instructotors retired. During 2007 2 new outboards were purchased in addition to an old Patrol boat and motor from WBC.

By 2008, DSWW now had 96 Active Instructors
The constitution was adjusted to enable WW to apply for grants along with a change to Clause 24 so the WW Constitution met the criteria for Charitable Trust Status. BIS became active again, with a lot of help from lots of instructors!

2009 rolled around with 104 active volunteer Instructors
The first 5 (of 15 ) new plastic optis were delivered. The 12 old fiberglass optis were offered to WW instructors for $250 each and all sold in under an hour. DWW purchased 3 new Inflatables selling the 3 old hulls to WW instructors.

The 2010 active instructor numbers were 106 with just over 800 children actively involved in DSWW
The second and third batches of optis were delivered, along with 8 new Firefly sit upons and 12 new sprite kayaks. The remaining 2 older optis were sold to Great Barrier WW. All the major assets were replaced from grants funding bought about through successful fundraising by the committee.

In 2012, DSWW there are now 100 active volunteer Instructors. With the departure of Carol, Stephen and Jane schools are now responsible for training their own instructors. With little or no use, it was agreed the laser now be sold. This allows the 3 remaining optis in the garage to be moved and stored in the WW locker.
The official WW Kayak Manual has been launched thanks to Jane Brockies. With Jane’s resignation the Kayak training has been passed on to Michelle Scott.