Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Northern lifeguards face greater demands

27 November 2019

Northern lifeguards face greater demands

Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) lifeguards are winning the battle to keep the public safe on their beaches – but face challenges with land-based fishers and some water-craft users.

SLSNR Chief executive Office Matt Williams says the tragic death of a fisherman swept off the rocks at Whatipu on 17 November was a stark reminder of the high risks posed by the activity.

“We’ve made great progress in managing the drowning toll at our beaches, but we’re still seeing many lives lost among those fishing off the rocks or beaches along our coasts,” says Williams. “In the last 10 years, 31 people have drowned fishing from the rocks or beaches in the Northern Region, including three since September this year, despite efforts to encourage safer behaviour, such as the use of lifejackets, appropriate clothing and the provision of Angel Rings.”

Williams says SLSNR, Auckland Council and Drowning Prevention Auckland (DPA) will be pulling out all the stops to address the high level of rock-fisher incidents and deaths this summer.  “It’s a top priority for us – we want all users of our coastline to enjoy it safely.”

While the rock-fishing issue isn’t new, Williams says it’s just one aspect of a significantly expanded role now expected of lifeguards – and not just over the summer. “Our mission has expanded and changed quite dramatically in the last few years.  We’re accustomed to providing safety and emergency support services for the public coming to our beaches – our whole ‘swim between the flags’ model – but we’re now being called on to respond around the clock to incidents on the coast - land or sea. While that means many more lives saved and people returning home to their families it is a change that does not come without its challenges.

“We get call-outs to assist in emergencies involving boaties, people fishing, divers, surfers and people just clambering around the rocks or walk along the coast – and that is year-round.”

Callouts for SLSNR’s club-based rescue teams in 2018-19 were double the previous year – on top of an already-significant, and annually increasing, 66,000 hours of volunteer patrol time, says Williams. And the brief had now expanded beyond the 22 formally patrolled beaches in the Northern Region.
“The public can go to any beach or cove or offshore island and dive, fish, surf or swim. But if they get into trouble they may be many kilometres from help. So we can be tasked with responding to any location on or off our coast, at any time of day or night. We now have a de facto responsibility for any beach in our region – patrolled or not.”

Williams says SLSNR has instituted a number of new training modules to meet the different rescue requirements. “Thanks to our partners we can continue to provide vital services to swimmers on our coastlines.”

He says the on-the-beach requirements at SLSNR’s patrolled beaches have also grown hugely in recent years.  “As Auckland grows, with more people coming into the region from other parts of the country or from overseas, our roll-up crowds just keep getting bigger. And it’s not just over summer. For various reasons we’re now seeing decent crowds at our major beaches earlier and later than purely December through February and getting into trouble, which is leading to our increased emergency callouts.”

That growth has put major pressure on the movement to attract and retain volunteers, says Williams. “Our lifeguards are working extended hours into the evening – which has been an important change, since many incidents happen after traditional patrol hours. But we had days last season where our guards were utterly exhausted, such was the public demand for their attention and services, and were then getting called to after-hours rescues after a full day of patrol. While such heroics are admirable and to be celebrated in the short-term, I worry for the long-term sustainability of that provision and our ability to grow the organisation with current resource levels.”

Williams says a number of legacy issues also put pressure on the movement, in particular the ageing club facilities at our beaches. “Pleasingly, we have a programme underway to address that – though it will take time, and more volunteer efforts. We hope to eventually see good infrastructure in place to give our volunteers the modern platform they need to work from.”

SLSNR was keen to see a continuation of the generally sensible behaviour at the region’s beaches that saw a heartening record of no drownings at patrolled beaches in the region last season, says Williams. “Staying safe at the beach is a partnership: we have a very clear set of dos and don’ts that will avoid trouble in the water but we need people to take more responsibility for their own safety, buy into those messages - and encourage their fellow-beachgoers to do the same.

“If the beachgoers themselves can strongly advocate for safe behaviour while keeping the beach fun – we will avoid tragedy.”


2019-2020 Beach Safety Messages
1. Choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags
2. Ask a lifeguard for advice
3. Don't overestimate your ability
4. Keep young children within arm’s reach at all times
5. Never swim or surf alone
6. Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore
7. When fishing from rocks, always wear a lifejacket
8. If in doubt, stay out!
9. If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for Police
10. Be sun smart – Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap.

Surf Life Saving Northern Region - 2018-19 season summary
• SLSNR lifeguards performed 286 rescues and 447 assists, carried out 894 first aid treatments and 181 searches and made 30,998 safety interventions involving 105,041 people.
• Lifeguards also helped educate more than 12,500 school-aged children in beach safety.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Chilling The Warm Fuzzies About The US/China Trade Deal

Hold the champagne, folks. This week’s China/US deal is more about a change in tone between the world’s two biggest economies – thank goodness they’re not slapping more tariffs on each other! - than a landmark change in substance. The high walls of US and Chinese tariffs built in recent years will largely remain intact, and few economists are predicting the deal will significantly boost the growth prospects for a slowing US economy. As the New York Times noted this morning, the likes of New Zealand will still face the trade barriers imposed by the Trump administration during the recent rounds of fighting. More>>


PGF Kaikōura $10.88M: Boost In Tourism & Business

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is investing $10.88 million to boost business and tourism opportunities in Kaikōura, Parliamentary Undersecretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. More>>


Whitebaiting: Govt Plans To Protect Announced

With several native whitebait species in decline the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage has today released proposals to standardise and improve management of whitebait across New Zealand. More>>


Education: Resource For Schools On Climate Change

New resource for schools to increase awareness and understanding of climate change... More>>


In Effect April: New Regulations For Local Medicinal Cannabis

Minister of Health Dr David Clark says new regulations will allow local cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products that will potentially help ease the pain of thousands of people. More>>


RNZ: New Year Honours: Sporting Greats Among Knights And Dames

Six new knights and dames, including Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua and economist Professor Dame Marilyn Waring, have been created in today's New Year's Honours List. The list of 180 recipients - 91 women and 89 men - leans heavily on awards for community service, arts and the media, health and sport.


Gordon Campbell: On What An Inquiry Might Look Like

Presumably, if there is to be a ministerial inquiry (at the very least) into the Whakaari/White Island disaster, it will need to be a joint ministerial inquiry. That’s because the relevant areas of responsibility seem to be so deeply interwoven... More>>






InfoPages News Channels