MEDIA RELEASE | 17 December 2021

With the arrival of warmer weather and the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, more New Zealanders will be heading to their favourite watering hole for a picnic and a swim. Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA) wants everyone to enjoy the water but reminds people that waterfalls and waterholes pose dangers for swimmers.

DPA’s Chief Executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says: “We’re really pleased to be supporting the water safety adviser programme at Hūnua Falls again this summer. While the country’s waterfalls and waterholes are inviting, they are very unpredictable and unforgiving. Tragically, they have too often proved deadly.”

In the five years 2016-2020, there have been 14 drowning deaths in waterfalls in New Zealand. Since 2016, there have been three drowning deaths at Hūnua Falls – two in 2016 and one in 2019.

Over the past two summers water safety advocates and organisations have worked together to help prevent further drownings at the picturesque Hūnua Falls. Water Safety New Zealand, Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland, and YMCA North are funding advisers who will be on site to educate people about the dangers involved in swimming at the popular destination.

“An integral part of this water safety project is having water safety advisers at the falls from late December through to the end of January, Wednesday to Sunday, advising about on-site risks at Hūnua and recommending safe behaviours. Advisers are on site at Hūnua Falls from 22 December for the summer.” Says YMCA North’s, Group Manager Outdoors & Fundraising, Dave Lockwood.

The surveying of visitors by the water safety advisers revealed that while most people were visiting Hūnua Falls to look at the waterfall or walk a track, there is still more work required to help people know why waterfalls are dangerous and not recommended for swimming. The same survey revealed that over half (55%) of people were over-confident in their own swimming competence and thought it more likely that others would get into trouble rather than themselves.

Auckland Councillor and Parks, Arts, Community and Events Chairperson Alf Filipaina is pleased to see the water safety advisers returning this year. “Education is really important. Too many people have died at Hūnua Falls in the past and it needs to be repeated that the falls are dangerous and unsuitable for swimming.”

He believes that the on-site advisers have played a vital role with reducing drownings, both fatal and non-fatal.

“Having people there most days over the busy period is really helping. Not only are Aucklanders learning about the risks around waterfalls, but they are taking that message back to their communities and that is important. We want people to come and view the majesty of the falls, but we want them to stay safe and return home to their whānau / ‘aiga too.”

Nicola reminds people of the water safety code, which will help keep people safe around any type of water:

Be prepared

Check the weather forecast, the Safeswim website ( and know the local environment. Set rules for safe play. Flooding can be prevalent after rain, causing strong currents and turbulent water.

Look out for yourself and others

Always supervise children around water and keep children under five years within arm’s reach; never swim alone and don’t pressure your friends to get into the water if they’re not confident.

Be aware of the dangers

It’s the unknown, what lies below the surface and not knowing the depth of the water. Slippery and submerged rocks, debris and underwater currents pose dangers. Sudden changes in depth together with slippery rocks may make it difficult for you to find your footing. Cold water will fatigue you. Get out of the water before you get tired.

Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your abilities and skill level; know what you can and can’t do in the water. Once again, don’t be pressured into going into the water if you can’t swim or aren’t confident.
“We urge everyone to think about water safety this summer. Enjoy the water but don’t over- estimate your abilities and under-estimate the risks. We are all responsible for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe when we’re in, on and around water.” WSNZ’s Chief Executive Daniel Gerrard said.