Surf Lifesaving resources stretched and inundated with rescues

Surf Lifesaving resources stretched and inundated with rescues
Photo credit: Getty Images


Chief executive Steve Fisher told First Up the settled weather around much of the motu this summer meant many beaches are experiencing pre-Covid levels of crowds.

"We're really pleased that there's been some good, settled weather across large parts of the country thanks to El Nino.

"It kind of feels like a good, old-fashioned, Kiwi summer."

But Fisher said it had resulted in a number of rescues, with lifeguards saving 538 people from life threatening situations, and assisting another 700 people to safety over the summer.

The Surf Lifesaving website said the charity saved an average of 1000 people from life threatening situations each year.

Fisher said its lifeguards did more than just rescue swimmers and help people to safety.

"A lot of what our guards do is also conduct First Aid and, increasingly, what we call preventative action. This is giving advice to people on the beach and coastline where they may be potentially in trouble, they may be in an area where a rip is developing and we ask them to move to a different area."

He said while Surf Lifesaving was appreciative of funding it gets from the government, local councils, trusts, donors and commercial partners, it was not enough to make ends meet.

"The drivers of some of those cost pressures are increased demand for our services, so people want us to cover more and more beaches, we've got longer seasons and longer hours each day.

"Last weekend we had a club that its flags didn't come down until 8pm. So the demands increasing, but that's often demand without any funding alongside it."

He said on top of those demands, there was the issues of population growth and climate change that they needed to worry about.

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand had put in a bid for further government funding ahead of the next Budget, Fisher said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis told First Up she was a big supporter of the work of Surf Lifesaving NZ but with a tight government Budget she could not commit to a funding boost.

"This is great and important work. Obviously, it relies on funding from a number of sources; philanthropy, donations, sponsorship, local grants, national grants.

"I am in the position as Minister of Finance of having all sorts of services come to me and say, 'can you give us some more money?' And as we've indicated for this Budget, it's going to be a case of weighing that up really carefully, because the country is in significant amounts of debt. We're not balancing our books at the moment. We need to be very careful.

"So I'd be preemptory to make a commitment today. Obviously, we all want to see sustainable surf lifesaving."