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Sink or swim time

Riversdale Beach surf lifesavers on duty PHOTO/FILE

Riversdale residents unite in plea for lifeguard funding

JAMES POCOCK
[email protected]

Riversdale Beach Surf Lifesaving Club remains the only one in New Zealand without lifesaver funding from its district council.

The club has asked for $20,000 a year in the Masterton District Council’s Long-Term Plan [LTP].

Club chairman Dave Rose told the LTP meeting on Wednesday that the club sometimes struggles with the lack of council support.

“We think Riversdale Beach itself supports this community, and we’re asking you to support us,” he said.

A councillor asked Rose what the club could do if their wage and salary costs were fully funded.

“If we were fully funded, we would be able to offer a service to Castlepoint, which currently doesn’t have a service at all.”

The patrols run for about five weeks during the peak summer period from 9am to 5pm every day, servicing about 500 beachgoers on weekdays and up to 2000 on the weekends.

They also run a nippers programme for children aged five to 14 which had 218 participants last summer.

Rose said Riversdale Beach had different challenges for lifeguards due to its distance from emergency care.

“At a town beach, the ambulance is only 15 minutes away. In our case, it’s 45 minutes, so we get asked to do a lot more as a response to these injuries.”

Rose said all the factors were reasons for the council to fund the club.

“We are very proud of what we achieve on the beach and what our services can offer on the beach.”

He said about seven to 12 paid regional lifeguards were employed by the club during the very busy summer season, but they struggled to pay their wages.

“We don’t have any problem recruiting the guards, the issue is paying them.”

Central region manager for Surf Lifesaving NZ Charlie Cordwell said about $25,000 was considered the bare minimum funding required for a surf club to cover one beach. However, the Riversdale club was essentially covering two beaches.

Of the nearly 350 public submissions the council received for their Long-Term Plan, 87 were from Riversdale Beach about the surf lifesaving.

Riversdale Beach makes up about 4 per cent of the 10,000 houses in the Masterton district, and yet its residents made about 25 per cent of submissions for the LTP.

John Christie. PHOTO/JAMES HOLLINGS

Riversdale Beach Ratepayers Association president John Christie said the number of submissions should give people an idea of how the community feels about the lack of funding.

“That will give you an idea of the strength of feeling.”

He said the ratepayers’ association helped with fundraising for the club, but that alone was not enough to cover costs.

“It’s one of the gems of Riversdale Beach. Everyone prides themselves on having it.”

Ratepayers from Riversdale have also made submissions for council funding to maintain Bodle Drive and Blue Pacific Parade.

Christie said both places have been neglected by the council, leaving them in a sorry state too dangerous for kids.

“Last year, I saw a little kid on her bike go off the side of the road, go into a big pothole and tumble off her bike.”

Christie was to present on the road funding request yesterday.

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