Warning signs in two Asian languages have been erected along entrances to a Northland beach where three Asian men have drowned while gathering crabs.

Those involved in the project say the signs have been urgently needed and were aimed at all those using the beach, not just the Asian community.

Yesterday, 11 signs were put in place at all major entry points to Uretiti and Ruakaka beaches.

Signs warning beachgoers of the dangers have been installed at entry points to Uretiti and Ruakaka beaches. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Signs warning beachgoers of the dangers have been installed at entry points to Uretiti and Ruakaka beaches. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Since 2011, three Asian men have died in the surf while setting crab pots. The latest death last month saw a 35-year-old man, from Auckland, drown after he fell out of an inflatable boat about 400 metres from shore. He was wearing a wetsuit but his lifejacket was on the beach. His body washed ashore nine days later.


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A safety campaign to try to reduce the number of drownings on the beach and, in particular, to educate an increasing number of Asians visiting the area to catch paddle crabs, is being driven by police with support from other agencies. The signs are part of the summer campaign which will also see volunteers on beach patrols during weekends and public holidays handing out pamphlets with safety advice.

Waipu police Senior Constable Martin Geddes said the signs were in English but had been translated into two languages, Chinese and Korean. They alerted beachgoers to the main dangers including strong current, large waves, uneven ground holes and to be aware of wind direction.

"It's targeting everyone because it's not just Asians drowning on our coastline. However, these beaches are becoming more popular with Asian communities," Mr Geddes said.

He said close to 1000 people a day visit the beaches in the area in the peak of summer, many of whom were crab netting.

As part of the campaign, a seminar about safe crab fishing will be held in Auckland on Friday aimed at Asian communities. On Saturday, a bus will bring people to Uretiti where there will be a beach fun day and a practical crab-fishing demonstration. The seminar will cover how to net safely and the importance of lifejackets. The beach trip offers a first-hand look at sea conditions and dangers.

Mr Geddes has also worked with WaterSafe Auckland to produce a pamphlet about crab fishing safely, to be handed out by "ambassadors" patrolling the beach. The volunteers are not expected to get in the water or carry out rescues. About 19 people had volunteered to do the patrols which would start on Saturday as part of the fun day. Waipu sign maker and surf life saver Greg Maddox volunteered his time to design, construct and install the signs, which he said were urgently needed.

"They have been needed for a long time. If we can mitigate some of the problems and ultimately fatalities by putting up these signs that would be great," Mr Maddox said.