The summer water death toll rose to nine yesterday after a man drowned at a Bay of Plenty swimming spot.

Emergency services - including two ambulances, two fire engines and three police cars - rushed to Kaiate Falls about 2pm after calls about a person being in trouble in the water.

Police confirmed a 29-year-old unemployed Western Bay of Plenty man drowned. He would not be named until his next of kin, who were overseas, were contacted. Police are investigating on behalf of the coroner.

A spokeman said officers had not been able to speak to anyone who might have been at the falls, near Tauranga, at the time of the drowning.

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The man became the ninth person to die in New Zealand waters since Christmas Day. Eight of the victims drowned while 12-year-old Jack Martin died when he was struck by a passing boat after he fell off a sea biscuit on Blue Lake, in Central Otago.

Four people drowned on Christmas Day, including two near Raglan, a 3-year-old who drowned at Hawkes Bay's Ocean Beach and a teenager at Wanganui's Castlecliff Beach.

On Boxing Day an 82-year-old English woman drowned in the Bay of Islands after falling into a pond.

The nine deaths are the worst summer water death toll since 2003.

Water Safety NZ boss Matt Claridge said last week that he was "gutted" by the worst numbers in over a decade.

• Anyone who was at the Kaiate Falls at the time of the man's death is asked to call Tauranga Police on 07 5774300.