Surf club frothing after council query kills rides

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
Sharon Arlidge
LAIRD HARPER/Fairfax NZ
CANCELLED: Opunake community leader Sharon Arlidge contemplates a beach carnival without fundraising IRB rides.
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A decade-old surf lifesaving fundraiser has been sunk by bureaucratic red tape.

The Opunake Surf Life Saving Club has been banned from offering Inflatable Rescue Boat rides to paying members of the public because it breaches Maritime New Zealand rules.

The news has frustrated members of the coastal Taranaki community and the surf club as the rides at the Opunake Beach Carnival are a key source of income and community interaction for the club.

Maritime NZ rules do not allow clubs to offer IRB rides to the general public for "hire or reward" and costly fines can result.

The issue stems from a South Taranaki District Council query made after this year's beach carnival.

An environmental health officer who had some concerns but was unsure if it was council responsibility asked his peers on an online local government forum.

His query was then passed on to the Department of Labour, who then referred it to Maritime New Zealand.

They in turn advised Surf Life Saving New Zealand that the club was breaking the rules.

Club chairman Michael Roach said they had to accept the ruling and the popular attraction was now "dead and buried".

"We didn't realise it wasn't kosher and wasn't legal," he said.

"We were probably naively running it.

"Unfortunately, in today's world, we just can't be doing what we did 10 or 15 years ago.

"As a volunteer sporting organisation I'm sure we're not the only one around the country being stung by this sort of red tape."

New Plymouth Old Boys Surf Life Saving Club chairman Paul Barron said although they didn't run IRB rides at their carnival this year, he was unaware of the rule.

The move has sparked an official warning from Surf Lifesaving New Zealand to all its clubs.

Opunake community leader Sharon Arlidge was bemused by the move.

"It seems totally ridiculous for this one day in a year operation."

Mrs Arlidge said with three IRBs offering rides on the day, and another on stand-by, those in the water were clearly in safe hands.

"There are lifejackets, parental permission and they adjust the ride appropriately."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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