Government funding equips coastguards to promote safer beaches, water sports

$63 million was the first-ever in the 110 years of Surf Life Saving New Zealand

With 74 surf lifesaving clubs with more than 18,000, including more than 4500 volunteer Surf Lifeguards in 80 locations, Surf Live Saving New Zealand has been protecting people since 1910 (Photo from SLSNZ website)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, December 29, 2022

Lifeguards and coastguards are well-equipped this summer and are better prepared to provide rescue services and promote better water and beach safety, Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan has said.

She said that the government’s $63 million package for water safety initiatives in Budget 2020 was a game changer for the water safety sector, which is run almost entirely by passionate Kiwi volunteers.

She said that the support extended was critical to ensure the safety of people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and that people can be more secure. Lifeguards are better equipped on our beaches and Coastguard is sailing new boats to the rescue.

First-time government support

“This is the first time in Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s 110-year history that central government has financially supported surf lifesaving clubs on the frontline, and it has made a huge difference to the work and wellbeing of the key volunteers that run their 74 clubs nationwide. The funding has allowed Surf Life Saving New Zealand to maintain frontline services even when their traditional revenue streams were under pressure due to Covid,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

$63 million for saving lives from water hazards: Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan (INL Business Awards 2022)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to her, government funding helped to cover 50% of the operational costs, including lifeguard training and the purchase, maintenance and repair of important lifesaving equipment during the past year.

Major repair and rebuilding projects in 18 surf lifesaving clubs across the motu (island) have also been made possible by this funding and many more will be covered in 2023.

Ms Radhakrishnan said that New Zealand’s Coastguard assisted more than 16,000 New Zealanders to safety between July 2020 and June 2022, supported by new protective equipment and upgraded boats.

“The government has helped customise 22 of the chase boats used during America’s Cup and therefore they can be turned into rescue vessels. Coastguard is also now able to employ 70 staff and support 2000 extraordinary volunteers who consistently put in a massive effort to keep people safe on the water,” she said.

Safety depends on all

Ms Radhakrishnan said that enjoying the ocean, lakes and rivers is a major summer activity in New Zealand, but it is everyone’s responsibility to look out for children, family and friends when visiting the beach or out on a boat.

“Educating our tamariki (children) and young people is key to preventing water incidents. Therefore, we are refreshing Water Safety New Zealand’s Water Skills for Life Programme, which sets the national standard for aquatic education in New Zealand primary schools,” she said.

Ms Radhakrishnan urged people to remember key water safety rules while out and about.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand is the leading beach and coastal safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority in Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Be prepared. Check the weather forecast and marine conditions. Know the local environment and the safe swimming spots. Set rules for safe play and use safe and well-maintained equipment. Look out for yourself and others. Always supervise children around water and keep children under five years within arm’s reach. Never swim alone. Swim between the flags at the beach. If you are on a boat, make sure that everyone on board is wearing a well-fitted life jacket. Be aware of the dangers. The water will be cold. If it is a surf beach, it is a rip beach. Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your abilities and skill level. Know what you can and cannot do in the water,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

About Surf Life Saving New Zealand

Surf Life Saving New Zealand is the leading beach and coastal safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is a unique organisation, delivering proactive lifeguarding and essential emergency rescue services and a range of public education beach safety programmes.

It offers its member education, training and development, as well as a highly respected sport.

Rescue operations go on under all weather conditions (Photo from SLSNZ Facebook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Organisation’s website says that all activities are undertaken as a charity, relying on the generosity of people, commercial partners, foundations and trusts for donations and financial contributions to lead and support its incredible front-line volunteer lifeguarding services.

“Surf Live Saving New Zealand is the national association representing 74 surf lifesaving clubs with more than 18,000 members, including more than 4500 volunteer Surf Lifeguards. Our lifeguards patrol over 80 locations each summer and provide emergency call-out rescue services throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, saving hundreds of lives each year and ensuring thousands return home safe after a day at the beach,” the website said.

Although its volunteer Surf Lifeguards have kept thousands of people safe on our beaches and saved thousands of lives, New Zealand’s beach and coastal fatal drowning rates have increased over the last five years, compared to the previous five years.

Instructors and Staff form the core of operations at Surf Life Saving New Zealand (Facebook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surf Live Saving said that it is committed to stopping this trend.

“Our vision is ‘No one drowns on our beaches.’ This drives us and why we are ‘In It For Life.’ If you are heading out to the beach, choose a lifeguarded one and remember the red and yellow flags show the safest area to swim. Rips are a major hazard on New Zealand beaches and can be deadly,” the Organisation’s website says.

Some lifesaving tips

There are 3 Rs Rip Survival Plans that can save people’s lives.

“Although conditions can change quickly, our lifeguards keep a constant eye on the beach situation as they continuously scope the beach for hazards and keep on top of weather forecasts and understand the swell and tide conditions –they are also a friendly bunch. Keep your children within arm’s reach at all times in or near the water because rogue or large waves move quickly and unexpectedly and can sweep them away or knock them off their feet,” the website said.

According to Surf Live Saving New Zealand, many people get into trouble in water because they overestimate their abilities and underestimate the conditions.

“There is safety in numbers. If you get in trouble in the water and you have your friends or family, you have an instant backup. They can help you out or get help if needed. If you feel uncomfortable about getting into the water, go with your gut feeling and stay out. It is better to be safe than sorry,” it said.

Rock fishing was the highest-risk activity for fatal drownings in 2018-2019 and hence care should be exercised.

“Wear your lifejacket, and shoes with tread (not gumboots) and never turn your back to the sea as large waves can sweep you off the rocks unexpectedly. If there are lifeguards on patrol, let them know. If you cannot see any lifeguards, call 111 and ask for the Police. They have a direct line to our emergency callout squads across New Zealand and Coastguard New Zealand.”

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