Lifeguards working at Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club who rescued five boogie boarders in one day had a night time emergency of quite another kind — the public toilets burning to the ground.

The alarm for the fire that destroyed the toilet block at the lower parking ground near the access to the beach and surf club was raised at about 3.30am yesterday.

Fire Service investigator Craig Bain visited the scene yesterday and said the fire was deliberately lit. Mr Bain said CCTV footage from the area would be inspected over the next couple of days.

By the time fire appliances from Whangarei Heads and Onerahi voluntary brigade reached the scene in the wee small hours, the toilets at the popular beach were beyond saving.


Lifesaving club captain Julian Pitman said paid regional lifesavers staying at the beach were surprised to be woken by the fire.

They joined half a dozen or so locals watching the blaze which was fully involved before the fire appliances arrived to extinguish the fire.

The day before, Ocean Beach lifeguards had been fully involved in a different emergency situation, rescuing boogie boarders.

Mr Pitman said two groups of boogie boarders — three in one instance and two in another — got into trouble in rips outside the flagged area.

While those were the only rescues over the four day holiday weekend, Mr Pitman said beach users should be aware there are a few holes caused by tide and sand shifts over the past winter.

It is very important people stay between the flags, he said.

Yesterday there were about 100 people at the beach, on a day he described as ''fairly quiet''.

A Whangarei District Council spokesperson was not available yesterday to confirm if portaloos or other temporary toilets would be put in place until a new block was built.