Beach patrols aimed at preventing drownings at a popular Northland surf destination need more volunteers to help promote safety messages.

The Bream Bay Beach Safety Ambassador programme is in its fourth season, set up after a rise in drownings on that stretch of coastline with three crab fishers drowning in four years. The programme aims to educate, in particular, an increasing number of Asians from Auckland catching paddle crabs.

In 2016 the team of ambassadors started to patrol the beach in a buggy allowing them to cover the 12km stretch of coast- from Ruakākā to the Waipū river mouth - quickly.

The last crabbing death was in November 2015 when a 35-year-old from Auckland drowned after he fell out of an inflatable boat about 400m from shore.

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In January this year a 51-year-old Bream Bay man waded out to retrieve his fishing nets when it appeared he got into difficulty, at Ruakākā Beach, about 400m north of the Ruakākā race course, just after 7am.

Senior Constable Martin Geddes is keen to get more volunteers for beach patrols to promote the safety message. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Senior Constable Martin Geddes is keen to get more volunteers for beach patrols to promote the safety message. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Waipū Police Senior Constable Martin Geddes has been the major force behind the ambassador programme with support from a dedicated team of volunteers and community businesses.

"The key roles of the ambassador are around prevention and education. To assist with this we have safety pamphlets in Chinese, English and Korean," Geddes said.

"The hands on, personal approach is what makes this initiative work. Shift times are flexible and tailored to what a volunteer can contribute on any given day."

Cervus Equipment in Whangārei has again offered a beach gator, free of cost, for the programme which will allow the ambassadors to patrol the 8km of beach where the drownings commonly occur.

Ambassadors patrol the beach talking to groups and individuals, handing out pamphlets and advising on beach safety and etiquette.

"Since the patrols began we have seen a dramatic decrease in drowning and rescues involving crabbers," Geddes said.

Crab fisher Steven Yang from Auckland took part in the safety day. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Crab fisher Steven Yang from Auckland took part in the safety day. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A beach safety day run by Drowning Prevention Auckland on Saturday further reinforced safety at the beach and the dangers of the ocean.

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About 60 people from Auckland and North Shore gathered on the beach off Uretiti, after it was identified crabbing was one of the highest, at-risk for drowning activities for the Asian community.

Geddes said the main message repeated throughout the day was: "Always wear a life jacket if you are going in the water."

"It's not worth dying for a crab or a fish. The most important message we could give is always wear a lifejacket, it just gives them a chance if they do get into trouble."

He said it was also important to teach those who frequented the beach to know their exact location, so if there was trouble a location could be given to emergency services and there was no delay in trying to find them.

Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Patrol chairwoman Tania Ahrens was part of the safety day for crabbers at Uretiti Beach. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Patrol chairwoman Tania Ahrens was part of the safety day for crabbers at Uretiti Beach. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Geddes said there was an increasing issue with vehicles on the beach travelling too fast.

He said the speed limit was 30km/h but there were vehicles travelling in excess of the speed limit.

Anyone wanting to become an ambassador can contact Brent Cooper at coops3@xtra.co.nz or Senior Constable Martin Geddes at martin.geddes@police.govt.nz

Leilani Fuemana is Drowning Prevention Auckland's new settler aquatic educator. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Leilani Fuemana is Drowning Prevention Auckland's new settler aquatic educator. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Rhi Gill from Omaha and Sam Teteina from Bethells Beach perform a water rescue demonstration, both are paid Lifeguards and Support Services members. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Rhi Gill from Omaha and Sam Teteina from Bethells Beach perform a water rescue demonstration, both are paid Lifeguards and Support Services members. Photo / Michael Cunningham