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Christmas Day rescues keep lifeguards busy

File photo. Photo: supplied / Surf Life Saving New Zealand

Swimmers are being urged to follow the advice of lifeguards at the beach, after lifeguards performed 13 rescues and 10 assists on Christmas Day alone.

These included a person being rescued at Piha after not listening to advice on where a safe place to swim was at the popular Auckland beach.

Surf Life Saving NZ CEO Steve Fisher said the Piha rescue could have become a fatal incident, so it was frustrating when the public did not listen to their guidance.

"We're not actually police on the beach, so we're there to help people make good decisions and although it's disappointing when people don't take our advice, we're lucky that lifeguards were there to rescue people."

Four people were also rescued at Wainui Beach near Gisborne yesterday after getting stuck in a rip.

"It wasn't big surf at Wainui yesterday but that kind of lures people into a false sense of security and I know they had pretty tricky conditions with some quite obvious rips so our big message there is people should be swimming in between the flags," said Fisher.

Other rescues included a multi-service search and rescue operation - involving Coastguard NZ and police - for a missing kite surfer at Raglan, multiple rescues at Waipātiki, and the treatment and helicopter transfer of a suspected spinal injury at Whangamatā, involving surf lifeguards, Hato Hone St John, and a Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Two people were also hospitalised after a water incident at Ōtaki Beach in Kāpiti Coast on Monday evening.

Meanwhile police were also warning the public to stay safe around water, whether that was diving, swimming or boating.

They said Water Safety New Zealand found there were 94 drownings last year - the worst year since 2011.

So far this year, 86 people have died due to drowning, with 85 percent being male.

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