Surf Life Saving is urging beach-goers to adopt a "common sense" approach as the number of holiday water-deaths continues to rise.
Matt Claridge says there have been five drownings during the holiday period, taking the annual drowning toll to 98.
He doesn't want to speculate on where it will end up but the key message his organisation has in a campaign this summer is not changing - people should stop and think before they go near water.
On Christmas Day a three-year-old boy drowned in a lagoon at Ocean Beach in Hawke's Bay, a man and a woman died at Ruapuke Beach on Waikato's west coast and a 17-year-old male was swept out to sea at Whanganui's Castlecliff Beach, and on Boxing day an 82-year-old woman drowned near Kerikeri.
The death of a 12-year-old boy while sea biscuiting on Blue Lake at St Bathans in Central Otago on Boxing Day is not currently being treated as a drowning as it's being reported he died of injuries after being hit by another boat.
Water Safety New Zealand waits for coroner's reports before compiling a final annual drowning toll in the middle of January, though the holiday period figures will be released before then.
"We're disappointed, I used the word gutted yesterday. We know that at this time of the year there is going to be more activity around the water," Mr Claridge told NZ Newswire.
Services and education manager Allan Mundy says swimmers need to "smarten up".
"I think simply they're not swimming near patrolled areas. Everyone that's got into serious difficulty haven’t been under the watchful eye of a life-guard, they've been in other beaches."
“We’re devastated, we’re really devastated. The toll so far is certainly nothing we thought would happen this time of the year, given it’s quite early on in our season. Still, we want people to just keep on following those safety messages”
Searchers near Whanganui are still looking for a 17-year-old who went missing on Christmas Day.
Key water safety statistics:
Source: Water Safety New Zealand annual reports and drowning reports.
RadioLIVE / NZN