Residents put up danger sign after deaths

Last updated 13:00 10/02/2014
warning sign at Maruia Falls
FALLS WARNING: The warning sign at Maruia Falls put up by local residents.

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Concerned locals living near the Maruia Falls have put up their own sign warning visitors they risk death if they cross the safety fence.

The graphic warning - a red stop sign with five crosses representing fatalities at the falls over the past 23 years - went up on Friday.

It reads: "These falls are dangerous. Not only do you risk losing your life but you also put the lives of the volunteers who are called on to assist in the recovery of bodies.

"It also impacts on the businesses who employ the volunteers. To date there have been 5 deaths. THINK. Use the track to the lower level for a safe and better view."

A local, who did not want to be named, said they had taken action because they were fed up with people climbing the fence by the carpark at the top of the falls.

On Friday another resident had met a young couple coming back from the falls after they had climbed over the barrier, and walked past a temporary Department of Conservation sign warning of the dangers.

"They said the view was awesome, but they were told it wasn't so good last week when all the emergency services were here," the local said.

In previous years visitors had regularly been seen hopping across the slippery rocks at the top of the falls, including some who had been holding children.

"It's got to be something that gives people a shake-up," the local said.

A Christchurch man died at the falls on February 1 after he jumped in to try to save a friend who had been sucked over the 11-metre drop after swimming in a pool at the top. The friend was saved by onlookers.

The incident happened only days after a Belgian tourist slipped on rocks at the top of the falls and fell four metres on to a ledge. He was rescued by Australian kayakers.

In both cases the men had climbed over the wooden safety barrier, and followed a track to the falls.

DOC had put up a sign warning of the dangers of the falls after a death in 2011, but it was missing, possibly stolen, when the latest incidents happened.

The department has since put up a temporary sign just past the barrier warning people not to go to the falls, saying "lives have been lost".

The local said residents believed the DOC sign was too small, and would not deter visitors.

Residents believed DOC should signpost and upgrade the walking track to the bottom of the falls where the view was better and safer. A longer-term solution would be to reinstate a previous vehicle access to the bottom of the falls, the local said.

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