A rise in New Zealand's drowning figures needs to be tackled with common sense, a high-ranking Hawke's Bay lifeguard says.

Provisional figures from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) for 2017 show a 13 per cent increase in preventable drownings on the previous year across New Zealand. There were 88 preventable drownings in 2017 versus 78 in 2016.

Although Water Safety New Zealand confirmed there were no preventable drownings in Hawke's Bay last year, provisional figures for 2018 show there have already been two preventable drownings in Hawke's Bay this month - one at the Haumoana estuary and one at Waimarama Beach.

Hawke's Bay call-out squad co-ordinator Phil Harman reiterated that common sense was the key to staying safe in the water.


"Obviously swim safe in patrolled area and know your limits, don't swim with clothes on, all those basic factors.

"The key one is know your limitations and swim in safe areas."

Mr Harman said there were plenty of warning signs along Marine Parade in Napier but the important thing was to remind people to use their common sense and know their limitations.

Mr Harman pointed to a near drowning incident at Waimarama Beach just yesterday as a case in point.

"At 2pm a 46-year-old female was rescued at Waimarama. She was in heavy clothing and had gone swimming with a friend. An off-duty lifeguard just happened to be out there and was able to take her to the shore."

The woman was given oxygen and was able to leave the beach on her own accord.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said the organisation was looking at new ways to target both Kiwis and visitors to make them aware of the dangers presented by our rivers, lakes and beaches.

"We acknowledge recent migrants getting into trouble in our waterways is a growing problem. Currently we target at-risk groups through our Drowning Prevention Investment programme and try and reach as many young New Zealanders through our Water Skills for Life education initiative in primary schools.

"I can't sugar-coat it, the water is our playground but it's incredibly unforgiving.

"Most of the time, it comes down to poor decision-making in the general sense. That's why most drowning deaths are considered preventable."

Preventable drowning fatalities are those where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) while non-preventable drowning deaths include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death).

Hawke's Bay Police yesterday thanked the public for their support with recent search and rescue efforts.

Detective Senior Sergeant Martin James saved special thanks for the Surf Hawke's Bay Call Out Squad and Waimarama Surf Club, The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter, Land SAR Hawke's Bay and Hawke's Bay Volunteer Coastguard after a busy start to the year with three drownings in one week.

"Surf Call Out Squad, Coastguard and local Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter units responded to the initial call of the 37-year-old mother who drowned in the Tuki Tuki River mouth. Surf Hawke's Bay Rescue returned the following day for an estuary search and within an hour located the victim's body.

"The second incident was a missing French tourist.

"Units of the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter and Coastguard were activated to carry out searches of the area where he went missing.

"The same evening, Waimarama Surf Club were involved in a rescue where a man and woman got in difficulty in the water.

"The man unfortunately drowned as a result after the normal beach routine patrol had stopped for the day. Members of the Waimarama Surf Club responded to the volunteer fire siren and followed the vehicle to the surf club before assisting in retrieving the deceased man and his wife. Without their efforts it could have easily have been a double fatality due to the [conditions] that they were pulled from.

"Hawke's Bay Land SAR and Surf Lifesaving were called on again in an extensive search for the entire day, of the estuary and riverbank area for the missing French tourist. This is an extensive use of volunteers giving up their own time and work to assist Police in their efforts to locate missing persons.

"The Frenchman's body was found ashore on Awatoto Beach several days later by members of the public."

The cause of death has yet to be established by the coroner.