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Council focus on safety after drowning at Aratiatia

Waikato Regional Council says it will be working with hydro generator Mercury and other agencies on water safety issues after the tragic drowning of a woman at Aratiatia this week.

The drowning occurred after the Aratiatia dam spillway operated causing strong water flows.

“Our hearts go out to the woman’s family and friends and we’re determined to look at what can be done better to prevent such deaths in future,” said council chief executive Vaughan Payne.

Mercury’s operation of the Waikato River hydro scheme is regulated by resource consents granted by the regional council. The operation results in spills from the dam, including for tourist display purposes and for operational reasons. Sirens are used to alert people to the spills and it’s understood they were working at the time of the incident.

Under the council’s navigation safety bylaw, the water 200 metres either side of a hydro dam structure is a prohibited zone. That zone excludes unauthorised vessels and water-based activities from occurring, including jumping, diving and swimming.

“It’s important that all people stay away from the exclusion zone around the hydro dams,” said Mr Payne.

He said the council intends to liaise with Mercury, the Department of Conservation, Taupo District Council and police over what’s happened and any lessons that need to be learned.

“We want all river users to come home safe to their families at the end of the day. We put a lot of effort into supporting water safety and we’ll work closely with our partner agencies over this incident.”

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