Rotorua drownings are at the highest they have been in the last five years according to new figures.
The four people who drowned in Rotorua add to a total of 18 deaths in the past decade.
Water Safety NZ released its annual drowning report this week which showed 10 people drowned in the Bay of Plenty, the second-highest number in the country, and 16 people were hospitalised.
Four of these people died in Rotorua, three in the Western Bay, two in Tauranga and one in Whakatāne.
It was the highest for Rotorua in five years with three in 2017 and one each year from 2014 to 2016.
Of the 10 deaths last year in the region, five people died in home swimming pools and one in a public pool. One person died at a beach, one at a river, and the remaining two were coded as domestic drownings.
Water Safety NZ has been working to come up with a strategy for reducing the number of drownings in three regions with high drowning rates: the Bay of Plenty, Northland and Waikato.
Water Safety Bay of Plenty chairwoman Shirley Baker said the Bay's three sub-regions each had different areas of focus.
Rotorua drownings were usually to do with swimming in lakes and rivers and tended to involve Asian people, she said.
The Eastern Bay's drownings were often around the collection of kaimoana and non-powered boating, such as waka and canoes, and Māori were more often affected.
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In Tauranga and the Western Bay, most drownings generally involved power boating and the most common group of people affected was white males.
"We're trying to address the ways we can target these groups specifically," Baker said.
Working with primary-school children was "critical" and Baker said a whole generation of children had been neglected. This was impacted by the closure of many school pools and the difficulty rural schools may have in transporting children to swimming lessons.
Only 5 per cent of boats in New Zealand were registered with Coastguard and Baker said this was another area of focus.
The group would also like to see signage around swim ways made more user-friendly for tourists - warnings should be displayed pictorially instead of just in multiple languages.
Baker said there was a lot of work being done with iwi and they were also looking into targeting men over-35, who featured dominantly in the statistics.
Water Safety NZ chief executive Jonty Mills said lakes and rivers in Rotorua were dangerous as they were cold and the risks were unpredictable.
Mills said a lot more people, both locals, immigrants and visitors, were taking part in more water-based activities in a range of environments in the region.
"The Bay of Plenty as a region is an area of focus for with one of the highest preventable drownings," he said.
Mills said there was a trend of males showing up more in drowning statistics.
"It's over-estimating ability and underestimating the risk," he said.
The Water Safety Bay of Plenty governance group has been working with representatives from surf lifesavers, iwi, recreational boaties, Coastguard and swimming instructors, and has also consulted with communities across the region, to create a plan for reducing preventable drownings.
Liz van Welie, owner and operator of Liz van Welie Swim School, said the number of people who had drowned in swimming pools was surprising, as there tended to be more beach and river drownings in the Bay of Plenty through recreational activities.
"It's terrifying to know so many happened in pools. It just shows people need to be vigilant around water. Even [with] my children, who are excellent swimmers, I'm vigilant in watching them in the water."
Van Welie said the deaths reinforced the need for all children to know how to swim and be safe in the water. They also needed to understand the risks of being around water.
"If parents are prepared to have a pool at home, they need to be prepared to put their children into swimming lessons so they can give their children a little bit more of an insurance policy around being safe in their own pools at home.
"Swimming lessons don't guarantee someone doesn't drown, but it gives them the skills to keep them safer if they were to get into trouble."
Sport Bay of Plenty community sport manager Nick Chambers said the Water Safety NZ programme, Water Safety for Life, was excellent in teaching fundamental water safety skills.
"We're very lucky in the Bay of Plenty to have many natural areas and a great climate for swimming, but alongside that it's important that we support people to develop water safety skills," he said.
The region appeared "far too often" in drowning statistics across the country, he said, and a key to driving down numbers was helping tamariki and whānau develop water safety skills for life.
The programme efforts across the region aim to educate people and support life-long water safety as part of a regional Water Safety Strategy. It is supported by a number of local councils and funders.
By the numbers
Bay of Plenty preventable drowning fatalities for 2018
10 in total
• 8 male, 2 female
• 2 Māori, 5 NZ European, 2 Asian, 1 unknown
• 5 home pools, 1 beach, 1 river, 1 public pool, 2 domestic
• 2 swimming, 1 angling, 7 accidental immersion
• 2 Tauranga City Council, 3 Western Bay of Plenty District Council, 1 Whakatāne District Council, 4 Rotorua District Council