Christmas Day patrol debated

By Zaryd Wilson

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AT THE READY: Lifeguards will patrol on Christmas Day if council will pay.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
AT THE READY: Lifeguards will patrol on Christmas Day if council will pay.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

Lifeguards could patrol Whanganui beaches on Christmas Day if the Whanganui District Council is willing to fund it.

Wanganui Surf Lifeguard Service are contracted by the council to patrol Castlecliff and Mowhanau beaches over summer but in the past it has not patrolled on Christmas Day. A council report said it would cost an extra $3000 to do so.

The report comes at the end of a season where 17-year-old Jordan Marshall drowned near Castlecliff Beach on Christmas Day.

James Newell, of the lifeguard service, told councillors on Tuesday there were a number of reasons they had not patrolled on Christmas in the past.

"For a lot of the lifeguards it's their last year in school and it's probably the last chance to have a normal Christmas with their parents (and) as long as the public know there's no guards on it's better to have the day off," he said. "Obviously there's quite a high cost (but) if you wanted us to do it we would do it."

Mr Newell said there was no guarantee having a patrol would have saved Mr Marshall who, he said, came in from a opening further down the beach.

"The chances are very slim that had a patrol been on that beach it would've helped anyway. You never know."

The $3000 it would cost to patrol on Christmas Day extra funding would have to be budgeted for in the council's annual plan.

The club received $56,000 from the council to run patrols over the summer just finished. The council may also consider whether it pays to extend patrols to Morgan St and South Beach in future but Mr Newell said it would take financial commitment from council.

"You either put it in place and do it properly or don't do it at all."

Meanwhile, the number of rescues the club performs annually has dropped from 181 in 1995-96 (the third highest in the country) to an annual average of 3.2. Mr Newell put this down to a change in approach.

"We, as a club, decided why are we rescuing people? We should be protecting them. Our guards are in the water protecting people. We do the prevention so we don't they rescues. Our guards are as good as anywhere in New Zealand, if not better."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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