Lifeguard service ‘under threat’
There will be deadly consequences if lifeguards do not receive more funding, Surf Life Saving New Zealand northern region says.
The charity organisation relies on sponsorship and donations to keep beaches around the country patrolled by lifeguards during summer months.
But its chief executive Matt Williams said the organisation was not sure if it could continue to provide all the services it was expected to without more money.
There were serious concerns about the future of lifeguarding in New Zealand, he said.
‘‘The problem is we’re doing more but the funding is shrinking. If this carries on drownings will increase because our services will be stretched.’’
In 2016, 21 people drowned at New Zealand beaches, the highest number since 2011.
About half of those incidents involved swimmers, while others died while kite surfing or after being swept off rocks.
Williams said the traditional role of a lifeguard had now extended beyond patrolling the beach.
‘‘There’s an expectation lifeguards will respond to emergency situations. It can be anything from large-scale searches to body recovery.’’
Williams said one of the issues faced by lifeguards was attending situations that require advanced skills, more akin to what a paramedic needs.
‘‘People forget lifeguards are
‘‘People forget lifeguards are volunteers . . . at the moment there’s not enough funding to service what we’re doing.’’
Volunteers have kept beaches save for decades, but say services could be impacted if funding isn’t increased (file photo).