2023 Aquatics Awards Winners

Some of New Zealand’s top aquatic professionals have had their contributions and innovations recognised at the 2023 National Aquatics Awards. Presented by Recreation Aotearoa and sponsored by Select Chemicals Ltd, the Aquatics Awards highlight the important work and innovations carried out by organisations and individuals within the industry. This year the awards ceremony was held at The Atrium in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, following Waves, Aotearoa’s annual aquatics conference.  

The first award of the evening was presented to Lord of the Waves - Auckland Council, the overall champions of the 2023 OPSEC National Pool Lifeguard Competition. The competition was held at Waterworld Hamilton. Lord of the Waves competed against three other lifeguard teams from around the country and were put through their paces with a series of tasks which included water rescue scenarios, a quiz round, a speed race, and a TikTok challenge.

Recreation Aotearoa Aquatics Programme Manager, Rhiann Collins, said: “The lifeguard competition is a great opportunity for lifeguards from all over Aotearoa to showcase their skills, teamwork and leadership in a fun way. Both the event and the journey of training for it provides a way of bringing the team together, and this can then translate to a more effective team day to day on poolside. The competition is also an excellent way for facilities to reward their lifeguards with not only participating in the competition, but also attending the Waves conference.

Three of the four teams this year were first time entrants to the competition, and it was great to see a high standard of skills and knowledge on display with teams displaying great teamwork, communication and leadership.

The second award presented was the Aquatic Innovation Award, which went to Youth & Cultural Development, Christchurch City Council & Sport Canterbury collectively for their FRESH Pool Parties programme. The FRESH Pool Party Series has redefined youth recreation in Otautahi Christchurch, attracting over 2,200 rangatahi since its start in January 2022. The initiative aims to engage youth and whanau from the Linwood Community in Otautahi Christchurch in active recreation. The Judges were impressed with the success of the programme and how well it lined up with the needs of the local community.

Two Merit Awards were also presented in this category. Choices NZ & Community Leisure Management (CLM) received merit for their Dive into Success Internship Programme. The judges appreciated their inclusive approach that not only addressed staff shortages in the industry, but also provided meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Aroora and Community Leisure Management (CLM) also received merit for He tāhuna tau atu. The judges were impressed by how the programme helped to develop rangitahi within the community.

The 2023 Lifeguard of the Year was presented to Jen Baen-Price from Christchurch City Council’s Taiora QEII Recreation & Sports Centre. This award is given to a lifeguard who has made a significant contribution to their facility and the aquatics industry.

Jen has a very customer centric attitude, positively influencing those around her and working hard and fast to constantly achieve high results in all she does. Christchurch City Council’s vision is to create “a great place where people want to be,” and Jen is the embodiment of this vision. She makes her facility a great place to swim, or play sport, and a great place to work. Jen’s people-focussed attitude makes her an asset to the wider aquatics industry and a deserving recipient of Lifeguard of the Year.

Two Lifeguard of the Year Merit Awards were also presented. Martin D’Orso from Christchurch City Council’s Graham Condon Recreation & Sports Centre received merit for his high commitment to his role. Judges commented that his nomination clearly demonstrated what an outstanding asset he is within his workplace, and to the industry as a whole. Chantelle Hutton from Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools also received merit. Judges commented on what a fantastic asset she is to her facility, a clearly valued member of the team who has really made a mark in the Hanmer Community.

“The Aquatics awards are always highly anticipated within the sector, and we have received many quality nominations this year. The Lifeguard of the Year is a national award for the best lifeguard in our industry. This is a great way for facilities to show their appreciation for the work their lifeguards do and really reward those that go the extra mile for their facility, teammates, and customers,” said Rhiann.

“The nominations for the Aquatics Innovation keep growing each year which illustrates the passion, initiative and drive that those in the sector have for continually improving the delivery of aquatic recreation to the communities of Aotearoa.”

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