Pools beautiful but dangerous

By Kristin Edge

4 comments
The Mermaid Pools are scenic but potentially dangerous.
The Mermaid Pools are scenic but potentially dangerous.

Wendy Smith hopes by sharing her terrifying experience at popular coastal rock pools others will become aware of the idyllic spot's potential dangers.

As she was slammed against rocks in the Mermaid Pools near Matapouri she wondered if her 9-year-old stepson was going to be washed out to sea. After three waves pounded the pools, she was able to get both of them to safety.

"I thought, 'Oh my god are we going to get out of this?'."

When they arrived about 1.30pm just before low tide last Sunday about 20 other people were already there were enjoying the beautiful spot. While there was a large groundswell running, the waves were not washing into the pool.

"It was calm. Then when we were in the pool there were these three massive waves.
"The first one knocked my stepson under. The second pulled both of us under and the third slammed me into the rocks," Ms Smith said.

"It was so powerful our shoes were pulled off our feet and all our belongings were swept out. I was just terrified. I really don't want this to happen to someone else."

Ms Smith, on maternity leave from her job as a physiotherapist at Whangarei Hospital, said warning signs should be erected.

"It's a beautiful place but it needs to be respected. More international visitors are coming to Northland and they need to be warned."

In hindsight, she said she should have checked the marine forecast but there were plenty of people in the pools when they arrived.

Just weeks earlier a man in his 20s was airlifted to hospital with a suspected broken leg after a wave washed him on to rocks while he was swimming in the pools. He was airlifted from the site by rescue helicopter.

The deep rock pool, known as the Mermaid Pools or its traditional name Te Wai o te Taniwha, is near Rangitapu Pa, north of Matapouri Bay. The pools used to be accessed by a hole-in-the-wall track from the beach but the opening that created the shortcut was closed by a rock fall in 2010. Since then people have trekked over a steep track.

Local marine conservationist Wade Doak backed the call for warning signs. He said that unlike the present route, the original track could only be walked at low tide which had regulated the number of people going to the pools. The all-tide access had seen a rise in the number of accidents there, Mr Doak said.

"These pools are getting more publicity through the internet now and attracting tourists from round the world. We have a responsibility to make sure they know about the potential dangers."

In 2013, a family was having a picnic there when a wave pulled a 3-year-old child into the sea. Her father jumped in and was lucky to find her but he was cut and bruised. The mother grabbed their 6-year-old before that child was also swept out.

- Northern Advocate

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