DoC urges people not to fish from Waikato's Papanui Point after man goes missing

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is urging Kiwis not to fish from Papanui Point after a man went missing from the rocks on Monday. 

A Coast Guard spotter plane has been searching for the man since yesterday, around rocks on Waikato's west coast. 

"We continue to strongly urge people not to fish from this spot due to the consistent risk of slippery rocks and a surging sea," a DoC spokesperson told Newshub.  

The fishing spot near Raglan has claimed the lives of at least 24 people since 1980, including 15 rock fishers. 

The popular location is beautiful but also rugged and incredibly dangerous. It's statistically one of New Zealand's worst kill zones and yet still so accessible. 

"More than 20 people have lost their lives fishing here. It is prone to rogue waves and help is a long way away. Wear a life jacket and exercise extreme caution if you choose to fish here," a warning sign in the area reads. 

When asked by Newshub how we can cut off access to the spot, Waikato District Mayor admitted it's no easy task. 

"Sure, it seems such an easy thing - there are lots of signs up when you go to Papanui Point saying 'Please don't go there, please don't fish there'," she admitted. 

"But actually, whether we stop fencing, or how do we stop a barrier on our wonderful west coast of New Zealand?" she asked. 

"The coastline's so intense and long, if people want to go somewhere they will." 

After a tricky, fairly scary walk with plenty of danger signs, Newshub decided to not go any further for health and safety reasons, however, we came across a group of four people on their way back from the rocks.

They had limited English, but one woman told us she couldn't find her husband. 

However, the man going missing wasn't the only problem for rock fishers on Auckland's west coast on Monday. 

Just south of Port Waikato, Sunset Beach club captain Judd Redmond spent nearly two hours coordinating a rescue of two stranded fishermen, before being forced to call in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.  

"As far as rescues that I've done, that was definitely the most touch and go," he told Newshub on Tuesday. 

"They were non-English speaking, non-swimming, so it was definitely hard to communicate with them and even let them know what we were planning to do." 

A survey for Surf Lifesaving last year found there were 230,000 rock fishers in New Zealand. 

Sixty-two percent think they are experienced enough to take a calculated risk, 19 percent don't use lifejackets or buoyancy aids, 36 percent drink or take drugs while participating and 37 percent can't swim more than 50 metres in the open ocean. 

Experienced rockfisher Todd Michell urges everyone to take a lifejacket, a personal locator beacon and to plan ahead. 

"Try to understand where you're going and how the sea, the tides and the swell and the wind direction are going to affect your location particularly on the west coast," Michell said. 

DoC's warning on Tuesday comes after they, along with Waikato District Council and Watersafe New Zealand, issued a warning to fishers to stay away from Papanui Point, less than six weeks ago.  

"The rocks themselves are slippery, and reaching them is fraught with risk," DoC's Waikato operations manager Jane Wheeler warned at the time. 

"From DoC's perspective, there are a number of risks at this site," she explained. "The sea can change rapidly and dramatically and that increases the risk and the danger, with fishers being washed into the sea." 

"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." 

On Tuesday, DoC told Newshub they have worked with partner agencies to put measures in place to prevent people from fishing at Papanui Point. 

"That work will continue in an effort to prevent tragedies," they stressed.