Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has provided the following statement about the provision of lifeguard services at patrolled beaches after this week's tragedy at Flynns Beach.
It reads in full:
COUNCIL’S current lifeguard services patrol hours of 9am to 4.30pm are consistent with many other council areas on the Mid-North Coast, and in comparison to some council areas, offer a much higher level of service.
During the six-week period over the Christmas holidays, lifeguard services at both Town Beach (patrolled 7 days) and Flynns Beach (patrolled weekdays) are extended to 5.30pm.
Council also extends its patrol services in holiday periods to the unpatrolled beaches at Lighthouse Beach, Rainbow Beach in Bonny Hills and North Haven (all patrolled from 9am until 4pm weekdays, extended to 4.30pm over Christmas).
It also offers lifeguard services over Christmas at Lake Cathie during periods of high beach usage (patrolled between 9am-3pm, 7 days).
Council invests more than $370,000 annually employing five seasonal lifeguards, including a senior lifeguard and 12 casual lifeguards who work to a roster and help deliver services during the peak beach visitation periods.
Council’s lifeguard services are always positively partnered with the region’s surf life saving club volunteer patrols which are affiliated with Surf Life Saving NSW.
Additionally to patrols, beach service activities conducted by council include litter collection – high profile beaches are raked prior to peak use periods and a comprehensive school and tourist surf safe education program is rolled out.
When developing council’s Community Strategic Plan (CSP), the community was asked to determine their service delivery priorities.
The results of community consultation indicated that lifeguard services were rated a lower priority by Port Macquarie-Hastings residents than parks, reserves and sports fields. Council is now conducting its Hastings Horizons community consultation process which will help us set the priorities for its four-year delivery program.
Part of this discussion is about how council manages its parks and reserves and residents can engage in this process by visiting council’s website, joining its Community Reference Group or writing directly.
Council’s school education program is an important and successful part of Council’s lifeguards’ awareness raising initiatives and ensuring beachgoers, particularly young swimmers, understand the rules designed to keep them safe in the surf.
Delivered by senior lifeguard Grant Hudson, the “No Flags, No Swim” campaign has been rolled out in schools across Port MacquarieHastings since September. It is underpinned by a message to encourage children and adults to speak directly to lifeguards and surf lifesavers while on the beach if they have any concerns about beach conditions or safety issues. The newly formed North Coast Destination Network and Surf Life Saving NSW have also joined forces to educate international visitors about beach safety at beaches between Tweed Heads and Port Stephens.
Coinciding with the warmer weather and start of the surf life saving season, pamphlets, posters, counter displays and DVDs have been distributed to visitor centres, airports and international languageschools in north coast towns frequented by international visitors.
The information is available in seven languages including traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Malay, Arabic and is supported by linkages to the beachsafe.org.au website, on all information distributed, through social media channels, partner sites and the visitor centres.