A west Auckland surf club headquarters with rotten timber and a rusting iron roof has been demolished and replaced by new $3.3 million premises due to open in July.
Matt Wade, club captain of The Trusts Karekare Surf Life Saving Club, said the new building was the first of seven club upgrades planned across the region in the next 10 years.
Karekare's rip-torn black sand beach which featured in the film The Piano has an increasing number of visitors and more pressure was on the club to provide services.
The relatively recent installation of a surf cam has also seen a higher number of surfers taking the winding road down to beach.
A new concrete masonry structure replaced the old damp run-down timber structure severely damaged by rot and topped with a rusting roof, he said.
Surfies spoken to by the Herald said before replacement, Karekare's club was one of the area's worst in the region, its premises small, cramped, damp and in desperate need of replacement
So the original building of the club, founded in 1935 was replaced by a block with a purpose-built life saving station, first aid room and an elevated watchtower which to allow greater visibility down the beach.
Money for the new building came from Auckland Council, Foundation North, The Trusts West Auckland which also now sponsors the club and has naming rights, NZ Lotteries Commission, Grassroots Trust, NZ Community Trust, St Lazarus Trust Board, Western District Foundation, club members, local families and private donors.
Wade said many people had a multi-generation link to the club and had been generous.
Without a suitable building, life savers got little shelter for up to eight hours a day and were forced to resuscitate people on the beach, the car park or a neighbour's front lawn, Wade said.
More people in the region needed help but facilities were often outdated.
"The surf life saving network in Auckland is seeing a significantly increased demand for its services as regional populations increase. National publicity highlighting the pristine nature and wilderness vistas at Karekare and Whatipu has also encouraged visitors from further afield who are unfamiliar with the dangers of the area," he said.
Club volunteers now focus on proactively identifying beachgoers who are unknowingly placing themselves in high-risk situations, he said.
"With more pressure on the surf clubs to help make our beaches safer, the regional club replacement programme over the next 20 years is an essential investment to provide the infrastructure our volunteers need to save lives," he said.
Karekare surf life savers spent around 4200 hours patrolling the beach, rescuing or assisting 24 people to safety last summer and took more than 1000 preventative actions to steer beach users away from danger, he said.
Matt Williams, Surf Life Saving northern region chief executive, said seven further Auckland club upgrades were planned for United North Piha, Kariaotahi, Orewa, Mairangi Bay, Bethells Beach, Omaha and Piha.
Allan Pollard, The Trusts chief executive, said the west coast beaches were some of the country's most dangerous. The Karekare club had more than 10km of beach to patrol, one of the country's longest and most challenging.
"It is critical that the 100 volunteer surf life savers have the financial resources and purpose-built facilities they need to protect the thousands of beachgoers that visit the area each year," Pollard said.
In 2014, the Herald reported on the deepening lagoon in front of the club which made rescues difficult and is eroding membership. The club said then it had pushed for a new access way to counter the deepening stream.