Hunua Falls, the picturesque regional park and waterfall located in South Auckland that tempts holidayers to visit the popular destination has come into the spotlight after it claimed yet another life – that of a young man earlier this week.
Upmanyu Sharma, a 23-year-old Indian national living in Wellington was pulled out from the Hanua Falls on Monday, January 21, after almost 24-hours of search by the police dive squad since he went missing on Sunday afternoon. Mr Sharma had travelled to Auckland for a holiday and had gone to the falls with his friends.
This brings the number of deaths at the falls at Hunua Falls to nine since 1980 and four in the last five years including two Indians.
Less than 20 kilometres from Hunua Falls and a few hours later, another incident was reported at Ramarama Swimming Hole where a man in his 50s went missing into the waterfall. His body was located on Monday morning by the police dive squad.
“We had two tragedies occurring just a few hours and few kilometres apart,“ member of the police team at the incident told TVNZ on Monday after locating both the bodies.
Hunua Falls is a popular tourist spot just a few kilometres via motorway through Pukekohe that it tempts people to visit and have a good time, especially during hot summers.
According to Water Safe New Zealand, this [Hunua Falls] is the deadliest waterfall and since 1989, there have been nine preventable drownings here,” TVNZ reported.
In 2013, a 20-year-old Indian national Daksh Modasia drowned at Hunua Falls and a six-year-old girl was escaped from being swept off with the victim. The ANZAC Day incident even then raised safety concerns at the popular falls.
With the death of another Kiwi-Indian almost within five years at the Hunua Falls, the community has held grave concerns and anxiety for the Indian nationals who come to New Zealand from a tropical sub-continental background and get easily drawn or tempted toward enchanting beaches and waterfalls barely realising the hazardous nature of the water and venturing into dangerous unknown territories.
Hunua Falls receives approximately 12,000 people every year who come to have a good time with family and friends. For some, the waterfall has turned a spot that tells a tale of tragedy and mishap at the popular holiday destination.
There are multiple warning signs at and around the park and near the waterfall that ‘highly recommends and warns’ people from swimming in the unpredictable rocky water spot. The Auckland Council website too ‘explicitly’ mentions not to swim in the waterfall as it can be hazardous and in some cases fatal.
Warning at Hunua Falls (Image: Google)
In March 2016, over three years ago, two teenagers aged 17 and 19 lost their lives at the waterfall. This raised some serious questions and appeals from the community to make the scenic spot a ‘no swimming zone’ or assign a lifeguard at the spot.
The waterfall, however, outlines many hazards that could injure or in some cases cause fatalities at the area.
-the rocks at the waterfall are very slippery
-there are sharp drops in the water area- from hip-deep water level to a sudden drop of almost 19 metres deep within one step or two
-the water is murky making underwater objects invisible
-the temperature of the water can be as cold as seven degrees that causes people to ‘gasp’ or have a problem in breathing
-the water-falls from 30 metres height that aerates at the bottom creating less buoyancy
-diving is strictly not allowed due to uneven rocky surface
-the water level changes dramatically and causes flooding during rain
-objects such as logs call be washed at the top of the fall – dangerous for the people at the bottom of the water-fall space
The Story of Hunua:
According to Maori cultural beliefs, mountains, trees, water and nature are considered as living beings and sacred. As per fables and legends of the Maori culture, Hunua and Waitakere suffered a troubled history.
This history of Hunua and Waitakere according to Maori.org.nz reads that the marriage between Hunua and Waitakere did not go well. On one particular moonless night, the son of Waitakere, Hui, did not return from the run into the tribal area- the chief of Waitakere called for the war chant when Hui appeared with a young lady who identified herself as the daughter of Hunua, Wairere. Although, Waitakere accepted the couple, this did not go well with Hunua and trouble ensued between the two tribes.
A popular belief floating in the social media these days after the death of the young man was that since Hunua rejected Wairere and Hui’s matrimony and drowned her in the Hunua Falls, she has been looking for her lost love and pulls any young man she thinks could be her love, Hui.