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Construction for a new community hub at Baylys Beach with incorporated Surf Life Saving facilities are coming to a close after funding nearly ran out in November.
The project has been a long time in the making, and Baylys Beach Community Trust chairman Grant Suckling said they had to tackle quite a few obstacles to realise their plans, but the trust believes the hub could be ready to be fitted out by April.
Suckling said the Baylys community had received a Christmas present in the form of a $262,000 cheque from the Lottery Grants Board which has given them the financial boost needed to complete the construction.
The idea to build a community centre where neighbours can get together and foster local connections came from a Baylys Beach resident who has since died and wished not to be named.
They had left a "significant donation" to finance the project, Suckling said, and the Baylys Beach Community Trust has since managed the project.
While the hub will be an event venue and meeting place for residents, it was also part of the donor's wish to incorporate a surf club.
The idea of establishing a surf club had been "seeding underneath the surface" for a while, Suckling explained.
"We have a growing population here at Baylys and a lot more tourists are coming each year who don't understand the wild west coast sea and the rips we get here. Our coast is an absolute beauty that goes from one extreme to the other. We had a few drownings over the years that have really impacted the community."
Currently paid regional lifeguards patrol along Baylys for a few weeks over the summer holiday period.
Local residents make an effort each year to find accommodation for the crew – with the new surf club, however, this wouldn't be an issue anymore.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region chief executive Matthew Williams said the new surf club was a "unique opportunity" and that they were grateful to the Baylys Beach Community Trust.
"We are hoping to start delivering Surf Life Saving services out of the new facilities starting next season. For the coming years, we will be working towards including the club into the Surf Life Saving family and establish a regular patrol on Baylys Beach."
Williams said it might be a bit optimistic to hope for a volunteer lifeguard in the coming season, however, SLS Northern Region would like to work with the community to establish a local patrol.
Their new facilities have showers and beds, and will offer plenty of room for storing IRBs and other equipment. While funding for the facilities has now been covered, SLS Northern Region will still have to fit out the new club with gear and furniture.
Regional lifeguard Kyran Gillespie is currently patrolling Baylys for a third season and said their crew was working towards a zero-rescue goal.
"We are trying to prevent anything from happening here. When we see that people want to go into the water, we usually have a chat with them and explain the dangers."
He said the beach was marked by daily changes and the water with its currents and rips was hard to predict.
"But no matter what day you come out here, there is always a strong current."
Gillespie, who lives not far from Baylys, believes that there would be enough volunteers interested in joining the new surf club.
Gillespie and Suckling are also optimistic that Baylys could become a training facility for other surf clubs in the region.
Most Northland lifeguards currently have to drive more than two hours to Muriwai Beach if they wanted to train in the west coast conditions.
While construction led by Hayden Andrewes are due to be finished by April, the community would still have put a lot of time and voluntary work into completing the project, Suckling said.
"We have a special community here at Baylys. You know, community isn't the buildings or roads in a place but all the people who care. We often have neighbours come and bring baking for the builders here. There's a not disconnect between people here."
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