Lifesavers ask for ACC cash

By Natalie Dixon

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Members are doing everything in their power just to keep afloat. Photo / Andrew Warner
Members are doing everything in their power just to keep afloat. Photo / Andrew Warner

Surf Life Saving New Zealand has launched a bid for ACC funding as local clubs grapple with a serious cash shortfall.

The not-for-profit organisation is proposing a small ACC levy to help clubs living "hand-to-mouth," according to SLSNZ chief executive Paul Dalton.

The proposal comes as volunteer club members in the Bay are forced to pay for their own uniforms and first aid training and fundraise for crucial items such as trauma packs, defibrillators and even petrol for IRBs (Inflatable Rescue Boats). The organisation gets a $2 million Lotteries Grant each year, with $750,000 split between 73 clubs nationwide. Councils such as Tauranga City give an annual grant to cover the cost of professional lifeguards' wages, Monday to Friday, for about 12 weeks over summer.

All other costs were met by donations, grants and sponsorship, which clubs and the national body had to seek every year.

Mr Dalton told the Bay of Plenty Times the funding model was "extremely challenging".

Members do everything from shaking buckets, holding sausage sizzles and hiring out their clubs for weddings and other functions, just to keep afloat, he said.

"We are speaking with the Government about the possibility of an ACC levy to help fund Surf Life Saving New Zealand. We are talking around .001 per cent of the ACC pot. Just enough to give us some certainty.

"We exist on a hope that we will get grants, that we will get the donations we need to keep the service going."

Omanu surf lifesaver Allan Mundy said volunteer club members "pretty much" paid for everything.

There was a public perception that the organisation was well funded and this often meant clubs were knocked back when applying for community grants, he said.

Mr Mundy said volunteers patrolled Bay beaches 80 per cent of the time.

"It costs them time and they have to dig into their back pocket to pay for items that should get government funding - everything from their uniforms, training courses and even petrol for the IRBs."

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said it cost about half a million dollars to run the Mount Maunganui club each year.

Papamoa Patrol Captain Shaun Smith (pictured above) is one of eight club members who were paid over summer to patrol. He gets about $19 an hour, a third of what he makes as a qualified builder.

"It pays for the groceries and there are perks. I get to help make the beach a safe place for everyone else."

Mayor Stuart Crosby said surf lifesavers did a great job but he felt they had enough financial support from ratepayers.

He said the bid to get funds from ACC was a good plan but did not think a levy was necessary.

ACC Minister Judith Collins could not be contacted for comment last night.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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