After an unusually wet start to September, spring is slowly heralding, and it's time to get the togs out of the dusty corner in the wardrobe.
With the swimming season kicking off next month, surf clubs remind the public to stay safe on Northland beaches.
Last year, Water Safe New Zealand counted eight fatalities and 18 hospitalisations in water-related accidents in the region.
Fatality rates average at eight to nine deaths annually over the past 10 years. Northland is ranking third highest after Auckland and Bay of Plenty.
Growing numbers of domestic and international visitors are a determining factor for numbers of incidents on local waterways.
Six Northland beaches - Whangārei Heads, Ruakaka, Waipu Cove, Baylys Beach, Mangawhai Heads and Ahipara - are going to be patrolled by lifeguards from Surf Life Saving New Zealand this season.
A recent addition to the first aid equipment at Mangawhai Heads is aimed to improve the safety of beachgoers.
Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifeguard Service and St John Ambulance installed in a joint effort a new automated external defibrillator (AED) on the exterior of the public toilet block near the beach.
"The AED is accessible to the public 24 hours a day. If people need to use it they just call 111 and emergency services will give you a code to unlock the device," St John Ambulance paramedic Andrew Mumford said. He recently joined the club's lifeguard patrol.
"Cardiac arrests can happen anytime, so the placement of this AED is crucial for saving people's lives."
An AED is a battery-operated, portable device that checks the heart rhythm. It sends electric pulse shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat after cardiac arrest, or to correct an arrhythmia, an uneven heartbeat.
Sticky pads with sensors, called electrodes, are attached to the chest of someone who is in cardiac arrest.
The electrodes send information about the person's heart rhythm to a computer in the AED. If needed, the electrodes deliver the shock.
When someone goes into cardiac arrest, they typically lose consciousness, have no pulse and stop breathing.
Consequently, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs, causing death if untreated within minutes.
AEDs can be used for adults and children – the faster the first shock is delivered, the better the outcome. Another effective measurement in case of an emergency is uninterrupted CPR.
"Survival rates from cardiac arrest are around 13 per cent in New Zealand. But the use of an AED within 3-5 minutes of collapse can increase the chance of survival by up to 44 per cent." Mumford explained.
Mangawhai Heads Chief Lifeguard Instructor Jess Costello says having an AED accessible to the public 24/7 gave real peace of mind.
"A majority of our major incidents occur after hours, so having something like this that the public can use will hopefully reduce the loss of life at our beach."
Costello has been part of the surf club for 25 years and says the number of visitors on the beach have been growing over time.
"Our surf club is unique in the sense that we don't only respond to rescues at the beach. We're also looking after the harbour, the estuaries and surrounding walkways."
Only last year the surf club responded to an incident on the Mangawhai coastal walk where a person suffered a heart attack.
Within the last 12 months, Northland surf clubs undertook 34 rescues, 86 assisted rescues and 14 major first aids with Whangārei Heads being involved in over 60 per cent of the rescues.
Volunteers will start patrolling again on the weekends and public holidays starting Labour weekend.
In peak times and during the summer holidays lifeguards also patrol on weekdays and get compensated for their work.
Matt Williams, chief executive at Surf Life Saving Northern Region, says automated defibrillators have become standard equipment in the surf clubs despite high acquisition costs of $3000 per device.
"We have with a total of 68 AEDs in the Surf Life Saving Northern Region which cover beaches from Ahipara to Raglan," Williams said.
Funding for the local surf clubs comes from the Northern Regional Council.
Williams has three essential tips for beach visitors to stay safe this season:
"Always try to go swimming at patrolled beaches.
"If you are swimming at an unpatrolled beach and see someone getting into trouble, call 111 first. We had people putting themselves into danger when trying to safe others.
"If you go to a patrolled beach, make sure to check with the lifeguard what the current conditions are. The coast is a dynamic environment and even beaches you are familiar with can change."