Taranaki was one of only three New Zealand regions in which the number of drownings increased last year.
Annual drowning figures released yesterday show five men died in Taranaki waters last year - a dramatic jump from 2011, when no-one drowned in the region.
Wellington and Southland were the only other New Zealand regions to report more drownings than the previous year.
That high number is disappointing, the chief executive of Water Safety New Zealand, Matt Claridge, said.
"I was surprised at how low it was in 2011, and it does vary from year to year, but it is disappointing that it has gone up."
The five Taranaki deaths accounted for 5.4 per cent of the national total of 93 drownings in 2012.
"Taranaki is sort of an aquatic centre with the surf and the easy access to the beach," Mr Claridge said.
On January 11 last year Lionel Edward Ogilvy, 45, of Waitara, died attempting to save his 10-year-old son from a rip at Fitzroy Beach.
The second death occurred a month later when the body of a man was found in the water near Paritutu rock.
Paritutu was also the scene of the remaining three drownings.
On August 8 Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, both 17, and their Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, died after being swept to sea while climbing around the rock.
Mr Claridge said it was not unusual that all of the people who drowned were male.
"It really reflects that more men are involved in water activities and that more men are in and around the water."
Males accounted for 88 per cent of the people who drowned in 2012, slightly above the number in 2011.
New Zealand men need to lose the "she'll be right" attitude and make water safety a priority if the toll is to go down, Mr Claridge said.
"If we can drive change in the behaviour of our men, New Zealand wouldn't have one of the worst drowning tolls in the developed world (third only after Finland and Brazil)."
He said there are some positive signs that the message is getting through to high risk groups - for example, two people of Asian descent drowned in 2012, compared with 19 in 2011.
Fewer preschool children drowned in 2012, with three deaths compared with 14 in 2011.
2012 DROWNING STATS
13 people drowned as a result of accidental immersion.
15 people drowned while swimming – one less than 2011.
Land-based fishing – 10 people drowned in 2012.
Offshore drownings (24 deaths) overtook beaches (18 deaths) and rivers (16 deaths) as the main drowning environment.
Pacific Islanders were the only ethnic group with an increase in drownings – 11 compared to nine in 2011.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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