Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Solution in sight to surf club's problem with lagoon

Karekare lifeguards say the deepening lagoon slows its rescues by vital minutes. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Karekare lifeguards say the deepening lagoon slows its rescues by vital minutes. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The surf club guarding one of the country's most dangerous rip-torn beaches says its biggest worry this summer is a lagoon of still waters about a metre deep.

Karekare Surf Life Saving Club says the deepening lagoon is hindering access to its clubhouse and will add vital minutes to emergency operations.

The West Coast club's base is a 200m walk across a black sand beach from the nearest road.

But the trip involves two crossings of a bush stream-fed lagoon.

The lagoon - which has deepened because of sand buildup during the past year - has become too deep to ford on the lifeguards' quad bikes and 4WD utes.

Sensitivity to the bite of churning tyres on the stream banks has ruled out the chance of the club upsizing to tractors to pack in club supplies and pack out rubbish.

The club has been rafting equipment across and up and down the stream or hauling it for 20 minutes along a bumpy track at the southern end of the beach.

Yesterday, Auckland Council announced it was coming to the rescue.

Staff were investigating the possibility of digging a channel along the former stream to let the lagoon drain and allow a lower depth of crossing.

Regional parks operations manager Richard Hollier said the council was applying for resource consent for this summer to carry out the excavation, which would take about a week and be finished by Christmas.

Meanwhile, club operations staff have their fingers crossed.

It took six years and cost $228,000 to win resource consents from the Super City's predecessors for a replacement for the 1982 clubhouse. Building will start when the money is raised to pay for it.

Club spokesman Andy Shaw understood that people were passionate about the environment at the beach.

However, the council's proposal for short-term relief would realign the stream to restore the traditional club and public access to the beach - wading in water up to calf-high instead of waist-high.

Patrols also had to cross the lagoon to reach swimmers in the southern part of the beach, which is its most dangerous part yet gaining in use because of a dry track.

"There is no longer effective emergency access to and from the beach and public access is restricted to very able-bodied people," Mr Shaw said.

"Our biggest concern is after-hours incidents and getting a patient offthe beach to the ambulance in the carpark.

"Using the track could add 15-20 minutes, which in life-saving terms could mean an unnecessary death."

Karekare Residents and Ratepayers Trust chairman Matthew Grove said he could not comment on whether the community supported the lagoon excavation but said the trust was working with the council and the club to improve access.

- NZ Herald

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