Lifeguards abused in kite surfing row

KERRY GALLAGHER
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
Orewa Estuary
KERRY GALLAGHER/ Fairfax NZ
HIDDEN DANGERS: People jumping into Orewa Estuary aren't aware of potential hazards, local lifeguards say.

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Volunteer lifeguards are being abused and threatened as they try and sort out disputes between beach visitors and kite surfers in Orewa.

People have abused volunteer lifeguards over a perceived lack of action about irresponsible kite surfers, Orewa Surf Club president John Chapman said.

But when lifeguards try to explain the rules, the kite surfers have sometimes abused them too.

Chapman said he believed the problem was ''out of town'' kite surfers who had a ''blatant disregard for maritime rules''.

The problem intensified with more kite surfers coming to take advantage of strong easterly winds.

Chapman said kite surfers from Orewa who were regularly at the beach were generally responsible.

But ''out of towners'' did not have the same consideration, he said.

''They just scoot in and out wherever they like. We try to do the best we can but my volunteer lifeguards are getting abused by beach goers and the kite surfers too, because we go over and try and explain the rules. 

''In fact, there's almost been a couple of brawls this year. Some of them get really stroppy.''

Meanwhile, swimmers in Orewa's estuary have posed further problems for lifeguards.

Chapman said people assume swimming in the estuary is safe but he estimates more than 70 per cent of Orewa's lifeguard rescues have been from the estuary this year, including two swimmers taken to hospital.

''I had this happen to me one day when I was on patrol. Mum and five little kids were right in the middle of a rip - a tidal rip going out, and she goes 'what's the problem?'.''

Signs warning of strong currents have been sometimes been posted near the estuary mouth.

Jumping in the estuary is also dangerous, particularly from the bridge, Chapman said.

''The classic is kids leaning on the 'Danger Do Not Jump Off The Bridge' sign and standing up on the railing to jump into the water.''

Chapman said he has seen postings about the jumping spot on Facebook with jumpers claiming it was safe and that they knew where the safe spots were. But with the currents, rocks and other material could move.

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- Auckland Now

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