Beach access will be restricted and lifeguard patrols will stop nationwide from tomorrow as New Zealand enters lockdown.
As announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, New Zealand was classed as alert level 3 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, until tonight at 11.59pm when it will go to level 4, which outlined extensive restrictive measures concerning everyday life.
As part of the impending lockdown, access to New Zealand's parks, reserves and beaches will be restricted and all surf lifesaving patrols will be suspended from tomorrow.
Under alert level 4, people were able to leave their homes for exercise as long as they remained at least two metres away from people they did not share their household with.
This extended to New Zealand's beaches as people within walking distance from beaches would still have access. All vehicle access to beaches and parks would be closed.
It was not considered acceptable for people to drive to beaches.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region confirmed yesterday all lifeguard patrols would be discontinued during the lockdown. This is more than two weeks before volunteer patrols normally ended at Easter.
Emergency response teams would be set up at certain beaches to provide police with essential search and rescue assistance, but they would be based at home.
Waipū Cove surf lifesaving club captain Kath Manning said any beachgoers needed to exercise great caution with no lifeguards on patrol.
"The main thing is don't overestimate your ability, don't go out of your comfort zone," she said.
Manning, who was one of Waipū Cove's six-person emergency response team, said she did not want to use the emergency team if it could be avoided.
While usual surf lifesaving advice was to "never swim alone", Manning said it was important to keep your distance from others at the beach, but to minimise swimming alone when possible.
As she lived only 100m from the beach, Manning said she would be going to the beach in the next four weeks alongside her three young children.
Manning advised parents taking their children to the beach to keep close to them at all times, especially if they weren't confident swimmers.
Surf Lifesaving Northern Region chief executive Matt Williams understood the part beaches played in Northland and New Zealand life, but said the public needed to follow the guidelines.
"We expect the public to be making really sensible, risk-averse decisions around the coastline and that may mean not going for a surf when you normally would,' he said.
Even with emergency response teams in place, Williams said response time for an incident could be up to 30 minutes, which enforced how important self-responsibility was for people attending beaches during lockdown.
"If you do get in trouble, it is going to be a significant delay for lifeguards to respond and that may mean a loss of life, so take no risks around the water for the next four weeks."
He emphasised the public should have no expectation of driving to a beach while in alert level 4.
Williams urged those who used the sea for a range of activities to think about what action was in the best interests of their community's health.
"Whether you're going for a fish or a dive, your own personal safety has to be higher than that catch or that outcome you're looking for."
Williams advised anyone who witnessed someone in trouble in the water to dial 111 immediately and notify police where you are, what the problem is and who is involved.