Drowning at Haruru Falls a terrible start to year

By Abi Thomas

A death in the Far North has been a horror start to Northland's drowning toll, which stood at five for 2012 - the highest per capita of any region in the country.

Kerikeri police yesterday released the name of the man who drowned at the Lily Pond on the Waitangi River at Haruru Falls on January 8.

He was 19-year-old Campesi Gino Huch, a Samoan resident who had been staying with family in Auckland.

Police say Mr Huch was seen to disappear in the water and efforts to bring him to the surface were unsuccessful.

He was eventually removed from the water, but efforts to revive him by a St John paramedic failed.

A rahui was placed at the drowning spot by local hapu Ngati Rehia, and Far North District Council locked a gate to an esplanade reserve at the end of Lily Pond Lane the day after the drowning.

The gate was scheduled to re-open over the weekend after the rahui was lifted.

Figures from Water Safety New Zealand show that of the five people who drowned in Northland last year, the youngest was under four years old.

The other victims were between five and 14 years old, 25 and 34, 55 and 64 and one man was older than 65. All were male.

Northland's drowning toll for 2011 was 14.

In 2013 so far, four people have died in New Zealand waters, which Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said was low for this time of year.

"Sometimes in the early part of January we'd be tracking at one a day on average - often we get to the end of January and we've had over 25 drownings," he said.

Northland, with more than 1700km of coastline, with the coasts only 7.5km apart at its narrowest and tourists flocking to the region, was a high risk area.

"In Northland, as everywhere, we need small children to be actively supervised by their parents, caregivers or other adults at all times around water and you need to be totally conscious and aware of any water hazards. Children are naturally curious and love water," Mr Claridge said.

"Another group we are appealing to are the males, aged from 20 to 60, who go fishing, boating, diving and swimming and don't follow the basic safety rules, like wearing life jackets, telling people where you are going and when you will be back and those that go swimming alone. They are the ones that like to go out and have a bit of fun at the expense of some safety considerations."

Lifejackets must be worn in boats in Northland, he said, and it was the responsibility of a skipper to ensure all people on the vessel had adequate lifejackets.

- Northern Advocate

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