Councils asked to stump up extra funding

By Abi Thomas

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Support from the public through the Annual Plan process could help persuade local councils into stumping up more money for the regional surf lifeguard service.

Surf Lifesaving Northern Region (SLSNR) is calling on councils to fund the service entirely, as pressure on the charities which cover the shortfall has meant weekday lifeguards have been pulled from the beaches weeks earlier than last year. Volunteers remain on patrol at weekends until April 4.

SLSNR business development manager Hayden Rawcliffe wants councils to front up.

"We believe it's the council's responsibility to fully fund the service. It's their people in their patch, and it saves lives."

Mr Rawcliffe said an Act of Parliament regarding the new Auckland Council meant the regional surf lifeguard service at Auckland's 10 beaches is fully funded under the council's amenities budget.

This season the Whangarei District Council contributed $19,000, the Kaipara District Council $19,000 and the Far North District Council $5000 to Surf Lifesaving Northern Region, and similar amounts last season.

The Northland Regional Council was asked for a grant but the application was turned down.

The cost of the service length SLSNR wants is around $9201.50 for the Far North, $53,427.66 for Ruakaka, Waipu Cove and Whangarei Heads, and $35,347.37 for Mangawhai Heads and Baylys Beach. It received enough money from council and pub charities for - in some cases - half their desired service level.

Far North District Council (FNDC) spokesman Richard Edmondson said the Te Hiku Community Board granted $5000 to SLSNR this season, after it sought $5,546.16 to provide a weekday lifeguard service at Ahipara from December 21-28 and December 31-January 4. The board also gave the organisers of the Snapper Bonanza fishing contest $10,000 towards surf lifesaving operations at Ninety Mile Beach.

Any request for FNDC - as opposed to community board - funding to support additional surf lifesaving services at Ahipara/Ninety Mile Beach during the summer period would need to be made through the public Annual Plan process, Mr Edmondson said. The FNDC draft annual plan is released for public submissions in March.

NRC chief executive Malcolm Nicolson said SLSNR was a very deserving organisation, but the council had also wanted to keep rates as steady as possible the past few years.

Mr Nicolson said the NRC continued to deliver funding to organisations previously receiving it, as those groups had made long-term plans based on that funding.

He said councillors had "quite a substantial" debate on the surf lifesaving application last year, but it came down to keeping rates as affordable as possible.

The public submissions process for the NRC draft annual plan begins this week.

Whangarei District Council district living group manager Paul Dell said the council valued the role surf lifesaving played in keeping swimmers safe.

- Northern Advocate

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