Rahui placed at site to honour men who died

Local Maori will honour the two people who died at Kakanui - and their families - by placing a rahui at the site this morning.

Te Runanga o Moeraki upoko (appointed traditional leader) David Higgins said the traditional restriction on gathering seafood at the North Otago site would last two weeks.

''The families are connected to the two deceased [people],'' Mr Higgins said.

''They come from the North Island - so they are not our people - but in respect to the loss of life ...

''It's a way for our people to not only assist the family in grieving, but as a sign of respect. The fact that somebody has passed away on one of our precious kai moana (seafood) grounds is something that we take really seriously.''

On Tuesday evening, the two men were found dead in the water off Harbour Tce after their seafood-gathering trip went wrong.

Police were contacted about 5.30pm by a member of the public who said they had seen what appeared to be two divers struggling in the water.

Acting Sergeant Peter Scott, of Kurow, was on duty in the area on Tuesday.

He said when he arrived at the scene he felt, from the shore, he would be able to make it to the person floating in the water about 40m away. However, he could not and was swept back in.

One man was found dead by a rescue helicopter and a second man was found dead by a surfer who helped get the victim on to a local person's boat so he could be taken back to shore.

Acting Sgt Scott singled out the Oamaru man who went out on a surfboard to assist.

''His help, stepping up to say 'I'll come out', was just invaluable, and greatly appreciated,'' he said.

The Otago Daily Times contacted the surfer who entered the water and found the second missing man. He declined to comment.

Warwick Ormandy, of Kakanui, said he was in Oamaru when he was first called by search and rescue.

''When I got the call ... they wanted me to put my boat in,'' he said. He would have been ''lucky'' to launch his boat, he said.

Earlier in the day, he had commented that the sea was dangerous. Swells of up 2.2m were reported at the time.

''We saw what the sea was like, and made comment earlier in the day that people shouldn't go near there [the site],'' he said.

Mr Higgins said the rahui would be imposed from the south bank of the Kakanui River mouth to the south side of Campbells Bay.

A pou would be driven into the beach at the southern and northern end of where the ''no-go area'' was in place; seaweed would be tied around the post to signify the rahui.

A third man, who was with the two people who died on Tuesday, managed to get out of the water.

Police have not released the names of those who died.

The deaths are likely to be referred to the coroner.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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