Log debris and slash along Waikanae Beach, Gisborne, on Thursday morning. Surfers can still be seen along the beach with their boards.
A boy from Wellington died following an incident last night at Gisborne’s Waikanae beach.
A police spokesperson said the child sustained an injury on the beach and died a short time later.
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Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz said she was “devastated” by the news.
“On behalf of our community, we send our condolences, our love and support to this family dealing this morning with this unimaginable loss,” she said.
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The council and herself would contact the family this morning to offer support, Stoltz said.
She said she was not aware whether the beach was closed at the time.
Stoltz said karakia took place at Waikanae beach last night and while there was no rāhui in place, she said she understood one would be announced shortly.
Stoltz said she did not know how the child was injured in the incident, but she was expecting more information from a police briefing later on Thursday.
Locals spoken to by Stuff said they had seen surfers out in the water near the scene of the incident this morning.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand spokesperson Rob McGregor said the child who died was a boy from Wellington.
McGregor said the beach was officially closed due to water quality at the time of the incident, and he understood lifeguards were not on duty.
In recent times, the beach has been covered in wood and debris following the battering by Cyclone Hale about a fortnight ago.
A Gisborne local, who wished to remain anonymous, said the incident took place outside the Waikanae Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
The local said slash had proved to be a problem on the beach recently, with children seen playing in and around debris.
They said when the tide was high and the surf was rough, which they were last night, slash would often be spread throughout the shore and surf.
Clearing slash debris from beaches is a regular occurrence across Tairāwhiti, with increasingly frequent storms washing forestry and wooded debris through the rivers into the sea.
Clean up following Cyclone Hale began on Monday on Waikanae and Midway beaches with support from the forestry industry, according to a post on the council’s Facebook page.
Rehette Stoltz said the clean up process would likely be ongoing for some time.
“This is not something that happens in days or weeks, it takes quite a lot of time,” she said.
The Tūranganui River was high in Gisborne on Wednesday morning after Cyclone Hale drenched the region overnight.
Gisborne District Council spends hundreds of thousands of dollars removing the slash in the lead up to summer and often following large storm events.
In 2021, it spent $344,000 on the clean-up efforts across the city and Uawa beaches, clearing about 275 cubic meters of woody debris in October.
Tairāwhiti Gisborne locals launched a petitionwith more than 8500 signatures, seeking a raft of changes to the way forestry is carried out in the region, so destruction caused by storm events like Cyclone Hale can be avoided.
The petitionorganized by Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti, a group including farmers and horticulturalists, Māori landowners and conservation workers, called on local and central government to do more to reduce erosion sediment and forestry slash from entering waterways.
Police said they were not aware of any rāhui being put in place in the area following the incident.
The child’s death would be referred to the coroner.