TODAY |

Burmese community creating new Muriwai rocks warning signs after pair drown at Auckland beach

A community has come together to create new warning signs at Muriwai Beach after a Burmese pair died while fishing on rocks yesterday.

A man and a woman, who were not wearing lifejackets died after being swept off rocks while fishing at Muriwai yesterday afternoon.

Both were pulled from the water but one died at the scene and the other in hospital, police said.

Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguards chairman Tim Jago told Morning Report the Muriwai beach, along with most of the beaches on the west coast, were well signposted about the dangers of waves and slippery rocks.

"Sadly these people had to actually walk right past one of those signs to get to where they were," he said.

He said he had found out the man and women were Burmese - a nation which has several different dialects - and that the signage did not necessarily signal to them the dangers.

"None of the signage addressed their particular requirements and [the Burmese community] offered to help us to create signage for their community. It's news to me that they're very frequent visitors to the west coast for rock fishing."

However, he said that signs and warnings were a part of the safety process and fishers needed to always carry appropriate gear.

"We're frequently telling people to get off the rocks but the biggest piece of advice and message that we're constantly giving ... is to educate the rock fishers that they've got to have floatation devices with them and wearing them," Mr Jago said.

"Now the sad thing as a matter of fact yesterday is these people were wrapped up against winter conditions and once they were in the water it was never going to be a happy outcome.

"They just had so many layers of clothing on that it was impossible for them to swim."

Rodney Local Board chairperson and fire brigade volunteer Phelan Pirrie said people continued to ignore the many warning signs about the beach's dangers.

Water safety group Drowning Prevention said that often cash-strapped families saw rock-fishing as a cheap way of gathering food - because all that was needed was bait and a rod.

Drowning Prevention spokesperson Harry Aonga said there were concerns over the lack of understanding on the dangers of West Coast beaches.

"The risk itself is quite deadly. And just the power of those waves, and if people aren't aware of, I guess, the conditions when they go out there, then they're putting themselves at risk."

Despite this, Mr Aonga said the number of fatalities had drastically decreased in the past twelve years, thanks to a project aimed at stopping people fishing off rocks without proper safety equipment.

"It started in 2006. There were a spate of drownings at that time, with five people that drowned off the rocks at Muriwai so from then we started the rock fishing project to encourage more people to wear life jackets."

Documents on the Drowning Prevention website showed in 2005 there were nine rock fishing fatalities, whereas in 2017 that number went down to zero.

While that was a win, he said, the two deaths at Muriwai show there was still a way to go.

Mr Aonga urged everyone heading onto the rocks to wear a lifejacket.

"It would interrupt the drowning process because it would give you time to float and make decisions and then ... if you're in the water for quite a long time it would give you time for a rescue team to come grab you."

A man and a woman were pulled from the water around 2pm this afternoon. Source: 1 NEWS