Waihī Beach has been reopened for swimmers, days after a teenager died from a shark attack.
A rāhui was imposed on the coast, 58 km north of Tauranga, after Kaelah Marlow died on Thursday.
The 19-year-old was injured by a shark while swimming at the end of Bowentown on the beach at around 5pm.
It is understood that the teenager was pulled from the water alive and paramedics desperately performed CPR on the beach, but could not save his life.
Further 73km to the north, Pāuanui Beach was closed and swimmers were told to get out of the water after seeing the sharks yesterday afternoon.
Surf Lifesavers ordered everyone – nearly 500 people – to stay on the beach by 1pm. They were still not allowed to enter the water at 3:30 p.m.
Patrols have found sharks on the popular Coromandel coast, and swimmers can only return to the water when 30 minutes have passed since the last confirmed sighting, a lifeguard said.
Rāhui on Waihī Beach is appointed for swimmers, hikers, and those who take part in other water activities – except fishing or seafood gathering – after hui Fridays among local parents, club officials, Bay of Plenty harbor chiefs, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand and representative of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
Rāhui, which runs along the coast from the northern end of Waihī Beach to Bowentown Heads, and includes ports to Ōngare, Tuapiro and Tanners Pt,
stay in place until 7:00 am Friday for those who want to fish or collect seafood.
Banning is customary after the water tragedy, said Māori warden and chairman of the Otawhiwhi Marae Trust Shaan Kingi.
Witnesses to Thursday’s tragedy described a heartbreaking scene, with a man being comforted by emergency services and then, after Marlow’s death, walking overboard and splashing water on himself.
“I can’t stop thinking about the tremendous sadness I saw on his face as he left the beach,” said eyewitness Matt Lawry.
Marlow, who lived in Western Australia until moving to New Zealand five years ago with her parents and younger sister, is “a cute, lovely girl, always cheerful,” her aunt Kylie French told Western Australia.
He lives in Hamilton and has worked on a farm having previously studied a trade apprenticeship.
“I’m just in shock, everyone’s in shock. We can’t go there, Mum can’t,” French said.
“You hear about shark attacks, but never in a million years did you think it would become someone you knew.”
A post-mortem examination was carried out on Friday, and it is not yet certain if any sharks were behind the attack.
Clinton Duffy, a marine scientist with the Department of Conservation, said many people have the wrong perception that sharks are unusual in New Zealand.
They do not.
However, attacks are rare – he has counted only 14 fatalities since 1840 – but one must always swim between the flags, and never alone on an unpatched beach.
Swimming should also be avoided at night, and where people are fishing or fishing.
High concentrations of fish in the water or the presence of dolphins can also indicate the presence of sharks.
“For the most part, sharks are completely uninterested in humans, I’ve seen them themselves swim past people … not at all interested.”