Lifejackets and lifejacket education will be more accessible for Auckland’s Pacific community with the establishment of a chain of ‘lifejacket hubs’ under the umbrella of the Free Church of Tonga Trust yesterday.

Each church will manage a stock of ten lifejackets providing them with the opportunity to not only offer the lifejackets but in partnership with WaterSafe Auckland provide essential and practical lifejacket education to members of their congregation.

The aims of the scheme are threefold: to increase the number of Pacific peoples wearing lifejackets when boating or fishing; raise awareness about the benefits of wearing lifejackets; and increase the practical knowledge, skills and awareness of safer practices.

To kick start the launch we held a practical in-water lifejacket session at Mangere’s Moana-Nui-â-Kiwa pool, with members of the congregations actively participating. This was followed by a ‘lifejacket handover’ and ceremony at the Free Church of Tonga in Favona Road.

During the ceremony a special viewing of ‘There Will Be Another Day’ Pacific water safety DVD was held. By Pacific, for Pacific, the DVD features Mariposa Mariner, Solomone and Eileen Vainikolo, and Amohia Afeake, all sharing their personal stories of survival in the hope that others may learn from their experiences. Copies of the DVD are available free of charge.

The establishment of lifejacket hubs has been made possible by the support of the Working Together More Fund, and The Southern Trust who enabled the purchase of the lifejackets [this is the second set of lifejackets funded by the Trust] we thank them for their continued support. The Free Church of Tonga Trust is to be commended for their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their community.

Affordability and access to lifejackets is seen as a common barrier to Pacific men keeping themselves safer while fishing or boating, and this scheme is one way of overcoming that. We look forward to establishing further Church-managed lifejacket hubs across Auckland.

Check out the photos and video on Facebook and if you would like to know more about the project or setting up a hub please contact Harry Aonga, harry.aonga@watersafe.org.nz