Karla Karaitiana / Stuff
New signs on Ahimate Reserve beach make it clear that swimmers should not take the river lightly.
River safety campaigns could become a feature of future Palmerston North summers as stakeholders consider ways to ensure both fun and distrust in the city’s unforgiving awa.
A rāhui on a section of the Manawatū River, placed by iwi Rangitāne following the drowning of a woman and child on the Ahimate reservation beach on December 27, was lifted on Tuesday by kaumatua Manu Kawana.
Mu Mu, 27, got into trouble in the water trying to save 11-year-old Blae Ler Paw. Two men, Toetu Tonisitino, 39, and Aukusitino Ioane, 25, later drowned on the same beach on January 2.
Now local iwis, alongside city and regional councils, are working together to determine how to reduce the risk of such tragedies happening again.
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Mourners gather by the Manawatū River to remember 27-year-old Mu Mu and 11-year-old Blae Ler Paw, who both drowned there on December 29, 2021.
Rangitāne iwi representative Chris Whaiapu of the Ngāti Hineaute Hapū Authority said several ideas were being discussed and the hope was that everyone could be united so action could move forward quickly.
“We are looking at who needs to be part of the conversation going forward. It is a matter of competence. We have Horizons Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council and Manawatū District Council, all with different ways of thinking around the river.
“Ideally we would be able to develop a protocol for everyone so that we could work as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
He said discussions had included Horizons working with Water Safety New Zealand to create a river safety program and to introduce a program for new refugees integrating into the community.
There had been discussions in the past about the possibility of introducing rangers, a concept similar to the town ambassadors used in the central town.
“The Rangitāne rangers would not be there to act as lifeguards, but were seen as a concept to increase the welfare of those who use the river for recreation.
“We now have an increase in people walking their dogs, cycling and running along the river. Rangers would be there to encourage responsible behavior while enjoying our awa.
Whaiapu said the awa was a beautiful taonga, but it could be unpredictable
“Please take note of the new signage installed in Ahimate, where caution is advised.”
Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney said that with temperatures predicted to increase in the coming years and as water quality improves and river amenities are improved, more people would seek to swim in the Manawatū River.
“Collectively, we will continue to coordinate efforts not only on immediate precautionary measures, but also on longer-term solutions such as water safety training opportunities. »
The beach at Ahimate Reserve was calm on Tuesday afternoon despite the lifting of the rāhui.
Liam Reardon, 23, arrived to swim but was cautious after spotting the new signs.
“I’ve been here all my life and never heard of it being a dangerous place to swim.”
He said after a few years away from Palmerston North he was delighted to return to his old swimming hole.
“Usually I would swim to the other side and do a few jumps, but after seeing the signs I wasn’t even sure if I should swim at all.”
He instead settled for a quick dive, staying close to where he entered the river.
“I think the only way to keep people safe is to have something like lifeguards here. The water looks so calm today that it’s hard to imagine there could be any danger.