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Weekday Patrols To Start Earlier

A spate of drownings and near-misses has prompted Surf Life Saving Northern Region to pull forward weekday patrols on several key beaches.

Three people have died and sixty-two others have been rescued in just over a week, running the region’s volunteer lifeguard service to the brink of exhaustion.

In addition to Muriwai, Piha and Raglan, weekday patrols will now be in place at Bethells, Karekare, Kariaotahi and Sunset Beaches between 11am and 7pm from Monday 29 November.

The dates have been brought forward from mid-December due to these beaches having had a recent drowning or close-call. On Tuesday 16 November, a person was recovered unconscious from the water by lifeguards at Bethells Beach in Auckland. CPR was performed but the person could not be revived. On Sunday 21 November, a man was able to be revived by lifeguards performing CPR at Karekare Beach before being airlifted to hospital. He was recovered unconscious from the water by off-duty lifeguards after they’d packed up patrol for the day.

On Tuesday 23 November, two people were rescued and the body of another person was recovered from the water at Kariaotahi. Lifeguards performed CPR but the person was declared dead by paramedics. Later that evening, seven people were rescued by lifeguards at Sunset Beach after being swept out in a rip.

Surf Life Saving Northern Region CEO Matt Williams says the decision to bring forward week-day patrols by the Region’s paid lifeguard service is a necessary and essential step to stem the current drowning toll following the recent tragedies. “We are seeing beach-user numbers higher than you’d usually see in the peak summer period before summer has even begun and a corresponding rise in the number of serious incidents”, he says.

“As a comparison, a quarter of our annual rescues were performed over a small window of time this weekend. While Auckland Council usually wholly funds this important service, the additional costs we are incurring to extend the service length are out of budget, and significant. They are certainly being felt by the organisation amid a financial year that has already been troubled by financial turmoil and revenue volatility related to COVID-19 and the prolonged Auckland lockdowns.

“Financially this is not a decision we have taken lightly and it is easily justified when you know it is going to save lives. It is the most sensible course of action available to prevent further tragedy.” Williams has acknowledged the ongoing strong support of sponsors and community and gaming funders but acknowledges they are having a tough time too.

“The fact is our partners and funders are working as hard as we are to fund us, but they are also being impacted and have less to give than they would normally like. Now more than ever we need the support of the public, to help us keep them safe on our beaches”, he says. “You just need to look at the difference when we have lifeguards on the beach and when we don’t. The person who was found unconscious in the water at Karekare on Sunday was able to be brought back because lifeguards were on scene so quickly.

“The deaths at Bethells and Kariaotahi occurred when there were no lifeguards around, and even though our Search and Rescue Squads were on scene very quickly, it’s those crucial few minutes that can save a life and dramatically improve the quality of life for a rescued patient. Literally every second counts.

“The lifeguards are also trained to prevent incidents from happening. By having a flagged area and warning people of rips, holes and other hazards we’re able to stop people from getting into trouble in the first place and it is equally as important they provide education as our most valuable long term tool in addressing the coastal drowning issue.”

Williams says the decision was also about ensuring the well-being of their volunteers. “Members of our Search and Rescue squads live in these areas and are seeing people getting into dangerous situations all the time throughout the week,” he says. “When you’re on-call 24/7 it can be hard to switch off, so knowing that there are lifeguards at these beaches will help give them a bit of a breather.” The good news is supporting Surf Life Saving Northern Region is easy. Direct funding can be donated through this Givealittle link.

In these difficult times, you can also make contributions simply by doing your normal shopping, without any added cost at ShopGood. ShopGood lets you shop amazing products while also doing some good. Every item you buy delivers a donation to Surf Life Saving Northern Region. “Quality products for you, a generous donation for us. You shop, they give. It's that simple.”

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