Be ready and be prepared at Northland swimming spots for the rest of this festive season.
That's the water safety message authorities have amplified following two drownings in Northland only hours apart on a tragic Christmas Day in the region.
Ruakākā Surf Life Saving Patrol and Waipū Cove Surf Life Saving Club responded very quickly after being alerted to help a troubled crabber who had been swept away in Bream Bay about 10.10am on Christmas Day.
Ruakākā's Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) recovered the body about midday after a comprehensive water search with Northland Rescue Helicopter.
The second drowning involved a snorkeller at the Kai Iwi Lakes about 3pm.
Police say the snorkeller was found unresponsive in the water and taken ashore but couldn't be revived. Both deaths have been referred to the Coroner.
A rahui has been put in place on Uretiti Beach between Ruakākā surf club and Waipū Cove but not at Kai Iwi Lakes.
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Police were yesterday not ready to release the identities of the drowning victims or even confirm where they are from.
The deaths prompted Surf Life Saving northern region and police to reiterate earlier key beach safety messages, including the importance of swimming between flags and for people to never overestimate their ability.
Ruakākā Surf Lifesaving Club petrol captain Brenna Ahrens said surf conditions were pretty clear with a one-metre swell when the crabber's body was pulled from the water about 10.30am.
She said there were about 100 people on the beach on Christmas and Boxing days, including crabbers, which was down from previous years.
Ahrens said it was great to see a lot of crabbers who wore lifejackets took away 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.
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.
Referring to Wednesday's drownings, he said there were rips off Uretiti Beach that people needed to be aware of, especially those not familiar with the area.
"Rip and current are difficult to teach in one session. It can be quite calm and if you put one step into the hole, that's all it takes. People should wear lifejackets and a wetsuit underneath to give them that buoyancy," he said.
Surf Life Saving northern region chief executive officer Matt Williams advised people to be ready and prepared when visiting and enjoying the beach this summer.
"Recreational activities like crab and rock fishing are high-risk and the consequences can be fatal."
Williams said Northern region lifeguards have been busy managing a range of incidents in different locations, working tirelessly to keep the public safe.
"If you're rock fishing the most important thing to remember is to wear a lifejacket at all times. If you're going out swimming choose a lifeguarded beach and stay in between the flags. It's these decisions that will help keep you and your family safe these holidays," he says.
Beach safety messages
• Choose a lifeguard-patrolled beach and swim between the flags
• Ask a lifeguard for advice
• Don't overestimate your ability
• Keep young children within arm's reach at all times
• Never swim or surf alone
• Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore
• When fishing from rocks, always wear a lifejacket
• Be sun smart – Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap.