Awa Aroha Fund

Following a tragic 12 months with multiple fatal river incidents, concerned riversport community members highlighted a concern for the welfare of affected team members involved in these tragedies. Subsequent exploration of the lack of easily accessible counselling services prompted WWNZ to investigate how we can create a mental health support package that is fair and equitable to enable professional support for those who are affected, should another unfortunate incident occur in the future in our community.

Whitewater NZ board has investigated what psychological counselling resources are currently available for members of other outdoor recreational body organisations. What we discovered is that the need unfortunately exists across all sport disciplines – but awareness, access and financial support is inconsistent and inequitable depending on location, local availability and a general lack of structure.

Currently when an incident on the river occurs (drowning, etc) those immediately involved will be given access to Victim Support in the first 24-48 hours, after which they will then have to go through their GP who can refer them on for 6 sessions with a mental health expert but this process can take up to 6 months during which time they may have no support.

Our Goal

To bridge the gap between the Victim Support Services and the indviduals accessing the Ministry of Mental Health Services.
This would hopefully then lead to a Mental Health Support plan that would look like:
Day 0 – Day 7 – Victim Support
Day 8 – 6 Month – WWNZ Programme
6 Month Forward – Ministry of Health (MOH) Programme

Support Available

We will initially provide funding of up to $2,000 per incident to facilitate a group debrief session with a professional. At the conclusion of this session the group and the support person will decide how to most appropriately use the rest of the funding for this specific incident, and explore other avenues for additional funding for ongoing support where required.

Further support may include additional group sessions, or 1:1 support where appropriate.

This support is not intended to be a long term solution, but a bridging of the gap between accessing publicly funded support services available for those eligible for New Zealand public healthcare.


To be eligible you would need to meet all of the below requirements:

Be directly involved in a fatal or near fatal incident;

In a river environment;

In New Zealand;

While participating in whitewater paddle craft activities in a recreational capacity


The Whitewater NZ board has agreed to support you at their discretion

You are not eligible if you or the incident meet any of the following criteria:

The incident did not take place in New Zealand ,

The incident was part of a commercial operation

You do not need to be a current member of Whitewater NZ to receive this support.

We believe that it is necessary to support all those who may be involved in any incident, our Charity Status will help us to carry this out without it being in conflict with our constitution.

How to apply

To access this funding, a representative of the group wanting support will need to reach out to a member of the Whitewater NZ board, this can be done by contacting us at [email protected] letting us know an incident has occurred.

From here those seeking support are able to select their own accredited provider. Whitewater NZ will share a list of providers who have been vetted for suitability and experience with providing support following traumatic events and are located across Aotearoa. Whitewater NZ can facilitate booking the initial meeting but any further support where required should be organised directly by those receiving the support.


Whitewater paddle craft activities: this includes non-motorised activities such as whitewater kayaking, whitewater rafting, packrafting, whitewater SUP, and River Bugs. It does not include motorised vessels.

Aquatic pests, such as Didymo, cause huge amounts of damage to river ecosystems and native flora and fauna. Paddle sports present a high risk of spreading pests between rivers, that is why it is essential that we Check, Clean and Dry our gear between river trips.

Watch this video for updated advice of how to clean your kayak, other paddlesport’s follow the same guidelines.

Otherwise please consult this website for current Check Clean Dry advice: