Life­guard ser­vice ‘un­der threat’

Franklin County News - - PROPERTY FEATURE - HE­LEN KING

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).

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