Three more people, including a child, died in the water yesterday as the country's summer drowning toll hit a grim milestone.
Twenty-five people have drowned since the beginning of December — equal to the total for all of last summer, with nearly two months to go.
Water Safety NZ chief executive Daniel Gerrard said the level of drowning was "unprecedented" and described it as "horrendous".
"I'm at a loss on what to say," he told the Herald.
"I'm just horrified at the level of drownings. It's just an absolute shocker."
A child drowning at Northland's Kai Iwi Lakes was one of yesterday's tragic incidents. Police said they received a report of a possible drowning shortly after 2.10pm.
A rescue helicopter was dispatched and the four-year-old was located unresponsive.
Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith expressed his condolences to the child's family and reminded everyone of the care needed while in the water.
"These places can look beautiful but they can be very deceptive and there's a fine line between being okay and being in trouble. Sadly, people don't know where that fine line is until tragedy happens."
Earlier yesterday, a person died in what the Herald understands was a scuba diving accident at Waiwera Beach, in Auckland's north.
"At around 1.30pm a person was reported to be unresponsive after getting into difficulty in the water," a spokesperson said.
Police also confirmed the death of a 28-year-old man who died while swimming in the Waingaro River, west of Ngāruawāhia, yesterday.
Emergency services received reports just before 1.45pm of a swimmer who was reported missing.
Fire and Emergency dispatched a jetski to search the river. The man was located but died at the scene.
Meanwhile, the Police National Dive Squad spent much of yesterday scouring the Waikato river for a man who disappeared while swimming with four others.
Emergency services were alerted to reports of the adult male, who was last seen jumping into the water from or near the jetty at the Hamilton Gardens about 6pm Monday.
His body had not been found by late afternoon yesterday.
Water Safety NZ said it's been our worst summer, so far, since 2015.
Last summer, 25 drownings were recorded across the whole three-month period, which is also the average over the past five summers.
Twenty people drowned in December 2021, more than double the figure for the previous December, when there were nine.
Gerrard said the number of water fatalities was "unprecedented" and "cuts through every age range, water activity and ethnicity".
A common theme in drownings was people underestimating the conditions and overestimating their ability, but Gerrard wondered if lockdown restrictions last year had accentuated this further.
The months-long lockdowns for Auckland, Northland and Waikato may have encouraged people to try things they hadn't done before, overestimate their fitness or delay the servicing of equipment.
Last week, Myanmar refugees Blae Ler Paw, 11, and 27-year-old Mu Mu drowned in the Manawatū River after getting into trouble while swimming off Ahimate Beach, near Palmerston North.
On Sunday, the bodies of two men aged in their 30s and 40s were recovered from the same river.
At Waihi Beach, all swimmers were also asked to leave the water after reports emerged yesterday afternoon of an adult and child getting into difficulty while swimming.
Meanwhile, one person was taken to Tauranga Hospital in a critical condition after a water-related incident in Mount Maunganui. Emergency services were called around 3.30pm.
Surf Life Saving said its lifeguards have already carried out record numbers of rescues in parts of the country, and tragically there have been several drownings.
On Monday, Pakiri lifeguards were called to rescue two swimmers from being swept out to sea at Goat Island.
That same afternoon, a six-year-old boy was reunited with his family after a 20-minute search at Long Bay.
In Omaha, a 10-year-old girl got into trouble outside the flagged area and a lifeguard had to use a rescue board to help her back to shore.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region reported five rescues, six assists and 11 searches just on Monday alone.
Earlier versions of this story said the boy who died at Kai Iwi Lakes was 11. This was incorrect.