Water safety advocate wants lifeguards at lakes after spate of drownings

Water safety advocates are saddened but not surprised by a spate of deaths this week.

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The cold water means people need to treat lake swimming more cautiously. Source: 1 NEWS

As well as the fatal shark attack, one Auckland man died at a beach trying to save a group of children.

The rough surf at Auckland's Karioitahi beach proved fatal this week for a father trying to save seven children. 

Revell Douglas, 46, was a well-known figure in the equestrian scene; his family says he'll be "sorely missed" after he drowned on Wednesday.

"They're just doing their best by their kids and I totally understand," Surf Lifesaving NZ's Allan Mundy told 1 NEWS.

"Our heart goes out to those people because it's the ultimate tragedy."

But three other fatalities happened at lakes, prompting fresh warnings. 

Lake Arapuni. Source: Google Maps

A four-year-old girl died at Lake Rotokawau in Rotorua on Monday. The next day, an 18-year-old drowned at Lake Arapuni and on Wednesday, another person died, this time at Two Mile Bay in Taupō. 

Lake fatalities are less common than deaths at rivers and beaches. 

Since 2009, 50 people have died at lakes, 169 at rivers, and there's been more than 200 beach deaths. 

"People need to know when they're at lakes that the water is cold. You do have to behave slightly differently," Water Safety NZ's Sheridan Bruce says.

She'd like to see lifeguards at lakes like at our busy beaches. 

"It's a complex issue because you're dealing with different councils," she says.

Swimming NZ's Davin Bray wants the Government to boost swimming education in schools. 

"I think it makes a lot of sense, especially lakes that are busy," he says.

"[There's] simply not enough money to go around, I've got a team and this year we'll get to 200,000 kids around the country, but it's not enough."

With plenty more people in New Zealand this summer, surf lifesavers are noticing an increase in swimming outside the flags and taking pool toys to the beach.

"They're having lots of fun and when their feet are off the ground, the wind takes over and they get blown out to sea very quickly," Mundy says.

It's a reminder that our beautiful waterways can be deadly.