As the drowning toll continues to climb by the day, the chairman of Surf Life Saving New Zealand is pleading with the public to swim at patrolled beaches.
Geoff Hamilton says of the six coastal drownings that have taken place over the past four days, none of them have been at patrolled locations.
"It's horrific. An absolute tragedy and, as a father of two, I'm even more saddened for these poor families that have lost their loved ones," he says.
The beach is our natural playground but it can also be deadly. "No one wants or expects a day out at the beach with family and friends to turn fatal, but the harsh reality is that for some people, it does."
Mr Hamilton says at this time of the year, there are a greater number of lifeguards covering more locations than usual. Lifeguards from 74 Surf Life Saving Clubs are currently patrolling around 90 of the most popular beaches across New Zealand.
"I cannot stress enough, the need for people to choose one of these spots to swim at. Surf Lifeguards are there to keep the public safer at some of the nation's favourite beach locations. I urge people to find their nearest patrolled beach and utilise it."
Ten people drowned during last year's holiday period and with another week to go until the end of the official holiday period (6am on January 5) Mr Hamilton says he hopes no one else drowns over this time.
If people really can't get to a patrolled location then they need to consider the risks before entering the water, he says. "If you're at a remote location or you're the only one swimming, it's going to be that much harder to get help, and time can be the difference between life and death."
When it comes to children, Mr Hamilton says supervision is key. "You have to keep them within arm's reach at all times. It's as simple as that," he says.
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823