Swimming pool deaths make up the majority of recent drownings in the Bay of Plenty, new figures show.
Water Safety NZ released its 2018 drowning report on Wednesday which showed 10 people drowned in the Bay of Plenty, the second-highest number in New Zealand, and 16 people were hospitalised.
Four of these people died in Rotorua, three in the Western Bay, two in Tauranga and one in Whakatāne.
Of the 10 deaths, five people died in home swimming pools and one in a public pool. One person died at a beach, one at a river, and the remaining two were coded as domestic drownings.
Water Safety NZ has been working on a strategy to reduce the number of drownings in three regions with high rates: the Bay, Northland and Waikato.
Water Safety Bay of Plenty governance group has been working with representatives from surf lifesavers, iwi, recreational boaties, Coastguard and swimming instructors, and had also consulted with communities across the region, to create a plan for reducing preventable drownings.
Chairwoman Shirley Baker said the Bay's three subregions each had different areas of focus.
In Tauranga and the Western Bay, most drownings generally involved powerboating and the most common group of people affected was NZ European males.
In Rotorua, drownings were usually to do with swimming in lakes and rivers and tended to involve Asian people.
The Eastern Bay's drownings were often around the collection of kaimoana and non-powered boating, such as waka and canoes, and Māori were more often affected.
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"We're trying to address the ways we can target these groups specifically," Baker said.
Working with primary school children was "critical" and Baker said a whole generation of children had been neglected. The closure of many school pools impacted this, and the difficulty rural schools may have in transporting children to swimming lessons.
Only 5 per cent of boats in New Zealand were registered with Coastguard and Baker said this was another area of focus.
The group would also like to see signage around swim-ways made more user-friendly for tourists - warnings displayed pictorially instead of just in multiple languages.
Baker said there was also a lot of work being done with iwi and they were looking into targeting over-35 men, who featured highly in the statistics.
Liz van Welie, owner and operator of Liz van Welie Swim School, said the number of people who drowned in swimming pools was surprising, because there tended to be more beach and river drownings in the Bay of Plenty through recreational activities.
"It's terrifying to know so many happened in pools.
"It just shows people need to be vigilant around water. Even my children who are excellent swimmers, I'm vigilant in watching them in the water."
Van Welie said the deaths reinforced the need for all children to know how to swim and be safe in the water. They also needed to understand the risks of being around water.
"If parents are prepared to have a pool at home, they need to be prepared to put their children into swimming lessons so they can give their children a little bit more of an insurance policy around being safe in their own pools at home.
"Swimming lessons don't guarantee someone doesn't drown, but it gives them the skills to keep them safer if they were to get into trouble."
Tauranga Swim School head coach, owner and founder Andrea Sinden said misjudgment of a pool's depth might lead to someone getting in trouble.
She said some children were overconfident in a pool, because it did not have the rough and tumble of ocean waves or currents.
She said there was also misunderstanding from parents around who is in charge of children's safety in a pool.
She said parents were responsible for their child's safety and lifeguards should be treated as a backup only.
She said more education around water safety and the signs someone was struggling was needed.
"There needs to be a healthy respect for water," Sinden said.
Sport Bay of Plenty community sport manager Nick Chambers said the Water Safety NZ programme "Water Safety for Life" was excellent in teaching fundamental water safety skills.
"We're very lucky in the Bay of Plenty to have many natural areas and a great climate for swimming, but alongside that it's important that we support people to develop water safety skills," he said.
The region appeared "far too often" in drowning statistics across the country, he said, and a key to driving down numbers was helping tamariki and whānau develop water safety skills for life.
The programme efforts across the region aimed to educate people and support life-long water safety as part of a regional Water Safety Strategy. It is supported by a number of local councils and funders, he said.
Chase Cahalane, eastern region lifesaving manager for Surf Life Saving New Zealand, has seen his fair share of rescues and close calls over his years.
"Ten is way too many," he said.
"We are a coastal country so everyone should be aware of the dangers.
"The main issue is that people overestimate their ability and underestimate the danger."
He urged people to be safety-conscious and follow the "if in doubt, stay out" motto.
Even the strongest of swimmers could be caught out by a strong current. He said New Zealand beaches tended to dip into a trough near the shore before a shallower sandbar further out of shore.
People often underestimated how far way the sandbar was and the current in the trough tended to flow sideways before going out to sea, so this was a hot-spot for people getting into trouble.
He said he had helped two women to safety on a jetski after they got into trouble in a trough this summer.
"They were exceptionally grateful - it's a nice feel-good rescue."
He said popular New Zealand beaches were well-monitored during summer so people should seek out patrolled spots and swim between the flags.
He urged people to remember the three "Rs" when stuck in a rip - Relax and float, Raise your hand and Ride the rip.
By the numbers
Bay of Plenty preventable drowning fatalities for 2018
10 in total
• 8 male, 2 female
• 2 Māori, 5 NZ European, 2 Asian, 1 unknown
• 5 home pools, 1 beach, 1 river, 1 public pool, 2 domestic
• 2 swimming, 1 angling, 7 accidental immersion
• 2 Tauranga City Council, 3 Western Bay of Plenty District Council, 1 Whakatāne District Council, 4 Rotorua District Council