Paid beach patrols end, volunteer lifeguards continue

Bay of Plenty lifeguards would love to have their season extended, but they're not holding out hope.

Paid lifeguards at Papamoa, Omanu and Mt Maunganui finished their season on Friday, with a month of summer still to go.

Papamoa patrol captain Shaun Smith said he would like the season extended eventually, although he said it would be hard to find funding.

He would also like to see the lifeguards extended down the Mount Beach as it was a busy beach.

Mr Smith said this year's season had been busier than normal.

"In the first three to four weeks, we did over 40 rescues which is a lot for us and for the volunteers. In the last four weeks we've probably done half a dozen. It's been one of those years where it's busier than normal. It could be because last year we had the Rena and the bad weather."

He said many more people had chosen to swim near the surf club in sight of the lifeguards.

"My personal opinion is the media coverage helped to get people to recognise how bad the conditions were. It made them think twice before swimming in front of houses. We've been trying to be more pro-active by talking to everybody we can to explain about the rips and the different holes."

Omanu head lifeguard Hamish McKenzie said personnel there had had about 12 rescues this season, which was near average.

"It's the best summer we've had for a long time. It's been coming in waves over the last few weeks. We're getting busy and quiet times."

Mr McKenzie said having paid lifeguards for a longer season would be good for everyone's safety, but the current end time was due to funding.

Mt Maunganui lifeguard and regional guards patrol captain Callum Knox said lifeguards had carried out about 20 rescues this season. He said while the beach had been busier than last year, the public had been very receptive to safety advice given.

Mr Knox had mixed feelings about whether the season should be lengthened.

"Yes because there's still people coming to the beach over the coming weeks, it's still summer, but it's not so necessary because the numbers have dropped off."

National Surf Lifesaving eastern region manager Chris Emmett said this season had been one of the busiest on record.

"It's been a very challenging season from our perspective. It's been extremely busy, one of the busiest ones on record, and it's been a challenge because of the weather, the conditions and number of people on our beaches. The lifeguards have done a fantastic job all up."

With the weather expected to stay fine he hoped people would heed all the messages and know their limits while swimming.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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