Today marks the first day of summer, and also the beginning of peak drowning season.

Water Safety New Zealand's Swim Reaper will be out patrolling the hot spots over the summer months, in a bid to both shock and alert swimmers to the deadly consequences of poor decision making.

Chief executive Jonty Mills says "it's hoped that his presence and dark humour on Instagram will send a stern message to young men aged 15 to 30 in particular.

"They represent about a third of the preventable drowning toll and yet only about 14 per cent of the population," he says.


"So we had to confront them in a way that they would be receptive and generally that age group don't like being told what to do."

Mills says a recent survey found that 33 per cent of respondents had been involved in a serious situation in the water, and 11 per cent admitted alcohol was the main factor.

"Alcohol and recreation in the water don't mix. And alcohol is definitely a factor in drownings in New Zealand particularly in that young Kiwi male age group. So our message to young Kiwi people is to drink responsibly."

68 people have so far drowned this year, including a one-year old child who drowned in a pond on Thursday night. The toll is already higher than the 67 deaths in 2016.