Warning issued over dangers of Waikato fishing spot

That’s the clear message from three public sector agencies as the nation heads into the holiday season – and the opportunity to go fishing looms for many Waikato people during the festive break.

Papanui Point is a rocky and rugged outcrop on the west coast of Waikato, south of Raglan.

Worryingly for land managers DOC and Waikato District Council, the dangerous site continues to attract members of the fishing community – despite it being a location known to claim lives.

Water Safety NZ statistics show 24 drownings at Papanui Point (16) or on nearby beaches (8), since 1980. Of those drownings, fifteen were men rock fishing from the point – nearly two thirds (63%) .

DOC’s Waikato Operations Manager Jane Wheeler says DOC has consistently urged people not to go fishing at Papanui Point for their own safety.

“From DOC’s perspective there are a number of risks at this site,” Jane says.

“There is no official DOC track to the point and we want to emphasise that for starters – this is not part of our track network.

“Secondly, the rocks themselves are slippery, and reaching them is fraught with risk.

“The sea can change rapidly and dramatically and that increases the risk and the danger, with fishers being washed into the sea.”

Rescues of fishers washed from the rocks have proven difficult for emergency services and there have been incidents in which it has taken several days for bodies to recovered.

Waikato District Council’s Open Spaces Services Manager Glyn Morgan agrees that Papanui Point presents a huge risk to those who fish at the point.

“It’s really dangerous, and unfortunately we are also seeing an increase in residents new to New Zealand choosing to fish off the point,” he says.

“We are proactively working with our partners including DOC, Surf Lifesaving NZ and our communities to manage the risk as effectively as possible.

“What we are clear on is that signage and track closures don’t ensure safety to the public, but behaviour change can.”

In response to these concerns, Daniel Gerrard, CEO of Water Safety New Zealand, emphasises the organisation’s stance on the situation.

“As we head into the peak of the holiday season, Water Safety New Zealand is gravely concerned about the ongoing allure of Papanui Point for fishing enthusiasts. Our message is unequivocal: Papanui Point is not a safe place to fish.

“The combination of its remote location, slippery rocks, and unpredictable sea conditions creates a perilous environment even for the most experienced fishers. We have seen too many tragedies unfold in such high-risk areas.

“We implore the community to respect the warnings issued and opt for safer, more accessible fishing locations. Safety must be the priority in all recreational water activities, and we strongly advise against taking unnecessary risks, especially in a spot known for its hazards.

“Let’s ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season by making wise choices about where we fish.”

/Public Release. View in full here.