New Zealanders love the water, whether it be for fishing, swimming, boating or other water-based activities.

And as summer starts to turn on the heat, thousands of us are finding refuge at our beaches, lakes and rivers.

However, our idyllic waters are often taken for granted and the dangers in and around the water are ignored.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said it is vital, especially in the ocean, to stop and think before entering the water.

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"We've got this idyllic coastal nation and our waters are absolutely inviting but they can also be really unforgiving," he said.

"We have a lot of rips and currents and from a drowning-prevention perspective, the safest beaches are those that are known to be safe and patrolled."

Emergency services and Surf Life Saving respond to the missing swimmer incident at Whatipu Beach. Photo / Michael Craig
Emergency services and Surf Life Saving respond to the missing swimmer incident at Whatipu Beach. Photo / Michael Craig

This weekend alone has seen at least three water incidents where people have been injured, rescued and in one case, remains missing at sea.

This afternoon, a man was seriously injured at Pātaua after falling into water. And a teenager was rescued after a near-drowning incident near Christchurch.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old disappeared in the sea at Whatipu Beach yesterday afternoon, and remains missing.

A search for the boy has stretched across the weekend, involving the fire brigade, Coastguard, and lifeguards from Karekare.

Whatipu Beach is isolated and is not patrolled by surf live savers, something which should be treated with caution, Mills said.

"Our general comment is the safest places to swim are the beaches that are patrolled, and surf life saving they do a fantastic job," he said.

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Water Safety chief executive Jonty Mills. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
Water Safety chief executive Jonty Mills. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

"But they can't be at all beaches and people need to have that local knowledge and that local understanding of conditions, and be aware of their own limits."

If someone comes into trouble on an isolated beach, often rescuers who swim out to help drown themselves and the person in trouble is rescued.

Mills said if you are swimming on a beach and someone nearby gets into trouble, there are a couple of things you can do to help.

"It's about stopping and having a think. If you can ring someone or alert the police, or get someone to ring the services on the beach, then good.

"The other thing is if there is a floatation device, something that can be either thrown to the person or taken with you out to that person, use that."