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Off-season lifeguards on the job

Although Wairarapa had a disastrously damp summer, Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club has been keeping busy.

Club chair Dave Rose made a submission to the Masterton District Council [MDC] recently to update them on what the club had been doing in recent months.

He said that the stream next to the clubhouse was turned into a “raging torrent” during Cyclone Hale, and access to the beach was “compromised by slash” debris that had littered the beach. Logs and other woody debris could be found in the water for up to five days after the cyclone.

Rose said the club had to deploy lifeguards on inflatable rescue boats to look for logs and keep swimmers away.

“Cyclone Gabrielle simply added more rain and more issues for Wairarapa, as we all know. As such, our statistics were down in terms of beach rescues, preventative actions, and first aid.”

He said that in the summer of 2021 to 2022, the club performed 21 rescues, 3900 “preventives”, 38 first aids, and clocked 4200 patrol hours.

Rose explained that a “preventive” is anything from responding to someone drifting out of the flags and asking them to move back ,or people “getting into trouble” but not drowning.

“That happens every day, sometimes 50 to 60 a day.”

Rose said that, by comparison, the soggy summer saw the club only perform 11 rescues, 1800 preventatives – almost 2000 less than the previous summer – 14 first aids, and 3800 patrol hours.

“Our patrol hours were still up; just our access to the water and weather conditions over the last summer were pretty awful.”

While the use of the beach was low, Rose said the number of first aid calls and emergency responses by off-duty lifeguards to the wider community has risen in the past year.

Riversdale Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. PHOTO/FILE

“We as a club have a memorandum of understanding with Wellington Free Ambulance, so if someone in Homewood dials 111, that call is immediately referred to key senior surf lifeguards within the Riversdale area, and they are asked if they can respond immediately.”

Rose said in the past two months alone, lifeguards have been called to five emergencies, which included “cuts, a chainsaw injury on a farm, a badly broken leg from a roof fall, and a ruptured aorta [artery] on the 19th hole of the golf course after a game of golf”.

“In four of those cases, oxygen, pain relief, and strappings were administered until paramedics arrived; we’re doing increasingly more work in the community, and we’re happy with that.”

He said the club’s facility itself has been used for a wide range of purposes in the past year, including 18 beach education programmes for local schools and colleges, and becoming a clinic for covid-19 and flu vaccines.

“It’s great to see it used,” Rose said.

He added that many core functions of the club would not be possible without funding from MDC, and the presentation was a ‘thank you’ to the council.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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