A man has drowned at a beach near Whangamata in Coromandel after getting into trouble while swimming outside the flags.
The 43-year old man began struggling to keep his head above the water at Whiritoa Beach just before noon on Christmas Eve.
Surf lifeguards pulled the unconscious man out of the water several minutes later, but couldn't resuscitate him.
Surf Life Saving's eastern region manager Chris Emmett says the man was swimming about 600 metres from the patrolled flagged area on the beach.
Mr Emmett says the tragedy highlights the importance of swimming between the flags.
He says Surf Life Saving's thoughts and sympathies are with the man's family.