Lifeguards face busy summer season in run-down clubs

Surf lifeguards are gearing up for what could be the busiest surf lifesaving season on record, but they're doing so from dilapidated club rooms in desperate need of renovations they can't afford.

The lifesaving season starts this weekend and as COVID-19 forces more Kiwis to holiday at home lifeguards are predicting a busy season.

Karioitahi Surf Lifesaver Bradley Walters says they're ready to "hit the ground running."

But many are working out of run-down clubs.

"I've been a lifeguard here for 15 years and in that time the club has been slowly deteriorating and in the past two years really bad and you can see structure compromised," Walters says. 

It's a similar scene around the country. Paekakariki club, north of Wellington, is in dire straits. 

Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards Chairman Matt Warren says his club is full of cracks and the changing rooms are plagued by mould and plumbing problems. 

"We will survive for the next 12 months or so, after that, we really need to move." 

The building's been hammered by the elements over its 50 years. Rising sea-levels eroding the boat ramp and making beach access difficult.

"The concrete ramp collapsed and slowly it's been undermined and the beach is just moving further back," Warren says. 

Surf Life Saving received Government funding for the first time in the 2020 budget - $9.4 million a year, $2.75 million of that is for building costs, which isn't enough to cover all of its much-needed upgrades.

Surf Life Saving applied for shovel-ready project funding for 19 clubs and six clubs missed out - including Karioitahi.

CEO of Surf Life Saving New Zealand Paul Dalton says the task is "still as daunting as it was before." 

Wellington's Lyall Bay was another club denied funding, it needs a million-dollar upgrade, but that's on hold as COVID-19 hampers fundraising.

"They're working day and night to try and get the money to finish it," Dalton says. 

Lifeguards across the country are heading into an unprecedented season - needing a lifeline of their own.