Editorial: Lifesaver funding cannot be neglected

By Scott Inglis

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Like thousands of other Bay people, I took to the beach during the summer holidays.

I swam at a number of beaches, including the Mount Main Beach, on days where the sun shone and the beaches were busy with people in and out of the water.

Going to the beach is a Kiwi summer past time and it's even more of a lifestyle when you live so close to one.

But beaches are dangerous. The time I was in the water, there was an obvious rip. I could see it and felt a strong pull in the breaking waves, and took great care not to get out too deep.

The surf lifesavers on duty used their loudspeaker to remind the hundreds of people enjoying themselves to be careful and put up their hand if they needed help.

I remember thinking how comforting it was to have surf lifesavers on duty.

The importance of their role was brought home to me again when I was reading the paper on Monday this week.

The page A3 story was about how Western Bay lifeguards are renewing calls for a satellite patrol station at Tay St, saying it is only a matter of time before someone dies.

Tay St beach, 2.7km from the main beach, is notorious for flash rips and holes and last week two men nearly drowned when swept out to sea there. Roaming guards from Omanu and the Mount look after Tay St so if someone gets into trouble, it is possible no lifesavers will be around to help them.

Tauranga City Council pays $142,000 a year to local surf clubs and in November, agreed to add another $10,000.

But the Tay St problem prompted Surf Life Saving to ask the city council to fund satellite lifeguard stations there and at three other popular beach spots last May. It would have cost $318,000, but councillors, by a majority, declined the application.

The application refusal last year came at a time when the council decided to pump $200,000 to the Tauranga Hockey Centre and budgeted $600,000 for a hydro slide at Baywave.

At the time, one of our editorial writers, Annemarie Quill, lashed the surf lifesaving decision. More than six months on, with the issue alive again in the height of summer, I have to agree.

Safety on our beaches is an essential, not a nice-to-have.

Mayor Stuart Crosby has provided some hope this week, saying Surf Life Saving could apply for more funding.

The decision to refuse this money last year was wrong. Surf Life Saving should reapply for more money this year and not give up, and Tauranga councillors who voted no last time should reconsider their position.

Eastern Region Surf Life Saving New Zealand will have its say in a guest editorial in tomorrow's Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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