Ngāti Awa tōhunga (spiritual leaders) and kaumātua have placed a rāhui over the Whakatāne River as a result of a drowning near the river mouth yesterday afternoon.

Ngāti Awa kaumātua attended the scene with the deceased, the whānau pani (bereaved family), and the rāhui karakia (prayers) were held at 5pm.

To respect the rāhui, people are asked not to gather seafood, catch fish, and undertake water activities in the Whakatāne river from Turuturu Roimata (Statue Rock near river mouth) to Taneatua until the rāhui is lifted at 5am on Friday January 10.

Read more: Emotional scenes as man dies while swimming

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Ngāti Awa tōhunga and kaumātua ask that the two-day rāhui is respected to acknowledge the tragic event, the deceased and the whānau pani.

Before undertaking activities on the Whakatāne River during the rāhui, Ngāti Awa tōhunga and kaumātua ask that people reflect on the absolute tragedy of losing a loved one so suddenly, the suffering of the whānau pani at this very difficult time, and the length of the rāhui.

In a post on Facebook, Ngati Awa, extended their sincere and heartfelt condolences to the whānau pani who are left grieving and heartbroken as a result of these tragic events.