Water safety officials are imploring people to take greater care as figures show 18 preventable drownings in Tauranga during the past six years, including four in the year to December 21 last year.

The drowning data highlights the perils associated with our coastline, lakes and waterways and does not include two water-related deaths in the wider Bay of Plenty during the past two weeks.

Those fatalities involved a 68-year-old man drowning on Boxing Day while kayaking off the Whangamata coast, and the Christmas Eve death of a young girl who died after slipping into a waterhole at a Western Bay river. The names of the victims have not yet been revealed.

The figures came from a Water Safety New Zealand report, which showed there were 45 preventable drownings in the Bay of Plenty in the six years to December 21.


Of those, 34 happened in the Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane council areas.

Tauranga's 18 drowning deaths included five victims who had been swimming and another five killed by "accidental immersions". Men continued to be over-represented, numbering 15 of those deaths.

Water safety experts urged Bay holidaymakers to stay between the flags while swimming from our beaches and to ensure that they had a companion when involved with water activities.

Mount Maunganui Life Saving patrol captain Sam Roy said that, while most people were swimming between flags, others mistakenly thought it was safe to swim 20m to 50m outside the flagged area.

This was incorrect, as it was hard for lifeguards to watch people outside the flags and there could be rips nearby.

"There is a good reason why we put the flags where we do," he said. "Of course we try to watch as many people as we can, but with hundreds of people on the beach our main priority has to be those swimming within the flagged area."

Mr Roy said it was "crucial" that beach-goers look out for each other. Adults needed to stay with their children and watch them closely.

"It's no good positioning themselves 100m away."

The national preventable drowning toll for the official holiday period, between December 23 and yesterday, was eight.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Jonty Mills said this was "a slight improvement" over last year's 10 drownings.

Several of the deaths happened when people were by themselves.

"It shows how crucial it is to have someone with you who can either help, or call for help," he said.

The warnings came despite Western Bay lifeguards reporting that bad weather kept people out of the water over the New Year break. With forecasters predicting a sunny week ahead, that is likely to change.

Papamoa Surf Lifesaving Club captain Shaun Smith said that wind and cold water stopped people from swimming over the long weekend.

"We just haven't got summer going yet."

Preventable drownings Tauranga 2011-2016

Accidental immersion: 5
Net fishing: 2
Shell fishing: 1
Rowing craft/dinghy: 1
Powerboat under 4m: 2
Free diving: 1
Diving/jumping: 1
Swimming: 5
Source: Water Safety NZ