Lifesaver's extra funding comment draws censure

RYAN EVANS
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012

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A Taranaki beach-walker is furious over comments made by an off-duty surf lifesaver who told him more drownings might lead to more funding.

Jim Tucker, a media tutor and former Taranaki journalist, said the comments came after he expressed his concern that nobody was warning early morning swimmers of a potentially lethal rip at Fitzroy Beach, in New Plymouth.

Taranaki Surf Lifesaving club development officer Andy Cronin said it was an unfortunate and disappointing response from the lifeguard.

Mr Tucker said as he strolled the beach on Christmas morning, he noticed several swimmers heading out into the well-known rip and warned them of its danger.

When he warned one group about to head out nearby, he was surprised to be told it did not matter as they were surf lifesavers. When he asked them why they were not warning swimmers, he was shocked to be told it was because they did not start work until midday.

After midday, Mr Tucker approached another surf lifesaver to discuss the issue, and, when he asked what would have happened if somebody drowned, he said he was told: "Perhaps there needs to be a few drownings for us to get the funding to extend our hours".

"For him to say that, I was outraged," Mr Tucker told the Taranaki Daily News.

He has since posted a lengthy narrative on the incident on his Facebook page.

Last year, the New Plymouth District Council cut the amount it funded lifesavers, causing a reduction in patrol hours.

The beaches are patrolled from midday.

Mr Cronin said Taranaki Surf Lifesaving was grateful for the support of the council.

"It's unfortunate they (the lifeguard) would say that and disappointing for them to say that.

"The lifesavers are there because the council has formed a partnership with us.

"It's difficult for us to get funding and the challenge for us is how we get that out to the funders.

"Like any agency, we would like to have more."

Mr Tucker said he has swum at Fitzroy Beach since he was a child and, while he knew about the rip, he though it was important to give visiting swimmers better warning.

Warning signs should be erected at about the half-a-dozen entrances to the Fitzroy Beach area, he said.

In January, a father died in the rip, while trying to rescue his son, 10.

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