Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Peril on the rocks: Mum and baby smashed by waves at Mairangi Bay

The woman tries to navigate her way along the rocks at Mairangi Bay as the waves crash into her.
The woman tries to navigate her way along the rocks at Mairangi Bay as the waves crash into her.

A photographer has recounted the harrowing moment she saw waves engulfing a mother and her baby at Auckland's Mairangi Bay.

Takapuna woman Eliane Souza was at the North Shore beach after 4pm on Saturday when she saw a mother pushing a pram along the walkway during high tide.

A keen photographer, Ms Souza captured a series of photos of the mother and pram becoming engulfed in the waves.

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"I was further back on the walkway and saw the mother up ahead and waves coming," she said.

"I couldn't believe she kept going. I thought she would have stopped. Another lady was ahead of me as well. We both stopped."

Ms Souza, a stepmother of two, said she was worried for the baby.

"It was really scary. I felt maternal instincts to want to protect the child.

"I really thought she would have stopped. If I didn't think she was going to stop, I would have gone after her.

"The waves came very quickly then she ran to get to the end of the path."

Another woman who was on the walkway at the time also couldn't believe the mother kept walking.

"I saw the whole thing. This woman passed me on the walkway and I could not believe that she carried on walking when the waves were already crashing over the walkway."

The walkway is part of the North Shore Coastal Walk operated by the Auckland Council. The council recommends doing the walk at low tide.

A Mairangi Bay resident told the Herald the walkway was known for becoming submerged at high tide.

"Having lived in the area for over 10 years, I know [the] walkway at the beach is actually submerged when it is high tide and is only usable when the tide is out.

"The waves crash on the walkway."

Several Herald readers expressed dismay at the photographs.

"As anyone who lives in the area knows, and what is plainly obvious to others, is that at high tide you need to use the clifftop walkway," one reader said. "Why anyone would take a pram along in these conditions is unfathomable!"

Another reader considered the mother's actions "rather reckless".

Surf Lifesaving northern region chief executive Matt Williams said it was vital walkers surveyed any coastal area first.

"The full moon has caused large swells in the past few days," he said. "Have a good look at the tide before going into the area. If the tide is in it may be best to avoid the area."

Surf lifesavers primarily monitored people swimming in flagged areas, but were increasingly having to respond to other events, he said.

- NZ Herald

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