Northland locals rally to keep lifeguards working

By Abi Thomas of the Northern Advocate -
Lifeguards get ready to launch the IRBs Waipu Cove Surf Lifesaving Club training session. Photo / Northern Advocate
Lifeguards get ready to launch the IRBs Waipu Cove Surf Lifesaving Club training session. Photo / Northern Advocate

Locals are stumping up funds to help extend the weekday surf lifeguard patrols at one Northland beach after the service ended because of a lack of funding from pub charities and the public.

The regional lifeguard service finished at Ocean Beach, Ruakaka and Baylys Beach last Friday, and was due to finish at Waipu Cove this Friday and at Mangawhai Heads on January 25.

Volunteers continue at weekends across Northland until April 4. Both services rely solely on donations and grants, and many people are concerned the weekday patrols are winding up weeks earlier than last season.

Support from the campground at Waipu Cove and local holidaymakers had seen the weekday lifeguard patrol there extend for at least another week beyond this Friday, and hopefully the following week as well, surf lifesaving club president Rick Stolwerk said.

"I've been club president here for 32 years, and we've always had paid lifeguards right up until the end of January," Mr Stolwerk said.

"This year is the first year the service has stopped so early."

Mr Stolwerk said crowds were still flocking to the beach every day, and without the community support there would have been no lifeguards from next Monday, which was a concern.

Dave Devereux, an Auckland businessman who has a bach at Waipu, decided to help the lifeguards as he knew the club did all it could to raise money.

"When I heard that their funding was a bit short I thought I'd put in $500, which might help pay for one guard for another week or something," he said.

Surf Lifesaving Northern Region (SLSNR) receives no government funding and operates its weekend volunteer patrols with money from donations.

The paid summer service is funded by district councils, pub charities and the Lion Foundation.

In the 2011/2012 season, Surf Lifesaving Northern Region was granted $1,242,800.

The Far North District Council gave $5000, Kaipara District Council $19,000 and Whangarei District Council $19,300. The councils granted similar sums this season.

SLSNR Northern Region business development manager Hayden Rawcliffe said the pub charities they relied on were struggling in the current economic climate.

Surf Lifesaving Northern Region lifesaving and club support manager Tom Burgess said they would love to be able to offer the service for longer.

"We'd love to have lifeguards at most of our beaches for up to six months of the year, but there's just not the funding for it," Mr Burgess said.

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