North Island surf lifesavers 'on their knees' after storms destroyed or badly damaged multiple clubs

Surf lifesavers in Auckland say they're on their knees after two clubs were destroyed and four clubs smashed by this year's storms.

They said they need a total of $12 million to keep going, and now they're begging the Government for the cash.

Mangawhai Surf Club was built just a decade ago and was taken out by a slip in the storms.

The clubhouse at Bethells Beach was washed away, leaving repair costs for them both sitting at more than $8 million.

"It's the biggest funding crisis our organisation has faced in the last 100 years. For 100 years, we've been out there supporting the community. Now we need your support. We don't have $8 million sitting there to fix these clubs up," said Matt Williams, Surf Lifesaving Northern Region CEO.

Four other clubs on Auckland's west coast - Muriwai, North Piha, Piha and Karekare - are also devastated, inaccessible or currently repurposed for Civil Defence or welfare centres, with outstanding costs of nearly $4 million.

That means there are six out of ten patrol sites unable to provide patrols.

"In Auckland, it's on its knees," said Williams.

And on top of everything else, their main job of saving lives in the water is facing record-high drowning levels.

"I think we need to take a look at the value surf lifesaving provides in its water safety function, its Civil Defence function and its community support function and make sure we're well funded to continue doing that in the future. We do our job very, very well, but we're not well funded to it, which is a challenge," said Williams.

The philanthropists and gaming trusts are out of cash, so Williams said only the Government can foot the bill.

"These aren't nice to have, this is the heart of the service, the areas we have to operate out of, so it's a huge problem," said Williams.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government is looking at what he calls social infrastructure.

"Surf lifesaving clubs play a really important role in these regions so we're working through that. It's one of the things the Cabinet committee will do is look at, based on the regional assessments we do, where need is," Robertson said.

Surf lifesaving's biggest fear is losing the volunteers who provide the service, spelling the end of a hundred years of vigilance on our beaches.