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About 20 surfers were out on the waves at St Clair Beach, in Dunedin, on Saturday, despite pleas from Coastguard New Zealand to stay off the water.
Coastguard Dunedin president John Campbell said the blatant flouting of the rules was disappointing.
If someone got into trouble or needed rescuing, volunteers would have to break isolation to go and help them.
That put rescuers and their families at risk, he said.
The message from the Unite against Covid-19 website yesterday was clear: "Stay home. Save lives.
"Stop the movement: don’t travel to and from baches or second homes, avoid driving out of your neighbourhood and keep exercise local by staying close to home.
"Help our emergency services by only doing safe activities.
"Avoid swimming, surfing, hunting or tramping.
"Avoid public spaces and don’t touch surfaces others may have touched such as park benches or playgrounds."