Back Beach lifeguards ruled out

LIFEGUARDS NEEDED: Michelle Stone and her son Keaton believe surf lifeguards are required at New Plymouth’s Back Beach
LIFEGUARDS NEEDED: Michelle Stone and her son Keaton believe surf lifeguards are required at New Plymouth’s Back Beach

Popular New Plymouth swimming spot Back Beach will not get lifeguards despite pleas from the public that they are needed.

Michelle Stone said the growing numbers of people using the beach meant it should be patrolled.

"They need flags; it's becoming extremely popular," Ms Stone said.

She said she was amazed at the number of people swimming at the beach in the past few days.

"It was like what you see on TV, the amount of people on the beach."

Ms Stone said she and her son often swam at Back Beach because of its close proximity to their home and its appeal over other beaches in the area.

Her son Keaton said he enjoyed boogie-boarding at Back Beach but it could be risky. "It's fun sometimes; other times there's a lot of rips."

Gloria Williams said she and her husband went to the beach to let the children play in the river, but avoided swimming in the surf.

"If people do swim here there should be a surf lifesaving club, or a big sign informing people of the danger."

Surf Life Saving New Zealand club development officer Andy Cronin said there were no plans to set up a surf lifesaving club at Back Beach. It was patrolled by East End Surf Club during the mid-90s but now resourcing was stretched, Mr Cronin said.

"We would need a number of lifeguards to set up another patrolled beach."

He said there was no building in the area at which to base the club and infrastructure would be a challenge, with the tide often washing right up to the cliffs.

There was also the risk that setting up a patrol would encourage more people to swim at the beach, potentially after hours when the patrols had packed up, he said.

He encouraged the public to swim at patrolled beaches and to also adhere to surf safety rules.

"Be familiar with the conditions. If you're not a confident swimmer you can still have fun but stay nice and close where you can still touch the bottom."

The same rules applied to any beach that was not patrolled, Mr Cronin said.

"If in doubt, do not go out."

In 2007, a 19-year-old man was swept out to sea by a strong rip at Back Beach but was saved by his friend and a surfer.

Meanwhile, lifeguards closed Opunake Beach about 3pm yesterday because of big surf and strong currents.

Mr Cronin said a big swell was forecast for the next few days and he urged swimmers to take care and follow the instructions of lifeguards.

"We would like people to take care out there and stay within their limits and be aware of changing conditions," he said.

Earlier in the day lifeguards pulled a teenage girl from the surf after she had drifted outside the flags and became separated from her boogie board.

Taranaki Daily News