Auckland’s wild and unpredictable West Coast has claimed the lives of two people who were swept off the rocks this week, prompting Drowning Prevention Auckland to kick start its summer rock fishing awareness campaign early.

Five fishers lost their lives off Auckland’s West Coast in late 2005 which prompted the West Coast Rock Fishing Project. We are now in the 15th year of this project which has seen a reduction in preventable rock fishing drownings over the years. Since the introduction of the project in 2006, there has been an average of one rock fishing drowning per year in Auckland. However, recent incidents show the urgent need to continue this project, particularly with more activity anticipated over summer due to our border restrictions. This project is a collaborative intervention by Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA), and Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR).

Drowning Prevention Auckland’s Chief Executive, Nicola Keen-Biggelaar said that “one of the effects of Covid-19 has been job loss and people struggling to feed their families. We have noticed an increase of people gathering kai moana without following our water safety advice”. Nicola goes on to say that “our eLearning platform is the first in New Zealand for online learning focussed on water safety and has a segment focussed on rock fishing”.

DPA’s Operations Manager, James Lea, attended the first call out last week, as he is a member of the Bethell’s Beach Surf Lifesaving call out squad. He said, “the waves were big, and they had been caught out by the incoming tide.  The fishermen were not wearing lifejackets and fishing on an unsuitable day for that location”. He added, “it’s a top priority for us to reach other rock fishers to reinforce our key messages to avoid drowning and promote always wearing a lifejacket while rock fishing”.

With a large portion of fishers surveyed indicating an Asian ethnic background combined with the fast-growing Asian community in Auckland, this has prompted DPA to hire a Drowning Prevention Advisor for the Asian Community who will endeavour to connect with, communicate, and educate the Asian community to reduce the drowning toll of our Asian population.

Our small but mighty organisation tries to reach as many Aucklanders as possible throughout the year in person through our Aquatic Educators. For the people that we have not yet educated in person we have a FREE eLearning module on safer rock fishing. We ask all fishers to go through this module and remember the key messages and learning before going rock fishing.

DPA’s Aquatic Educator, Harry Aonga, pleas that anyone going rock fishing remembers to wear a lifejacket and correct clothing, for them to check the conditions, and for them to be aware of waves and swells especially on our West Coast.

Remember; don’t underestimate the risks; and don’t overestimate your ability.

Visit the eLearning module: