Stephen Leahy at the Far North Coast Branch communications and rescue centre at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.
Stephen Leahy at the Far North Coast Branch communications and rescue centre at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.

Safety drive on local beaches

By RACHEL AFFLICK

TWO of the North Coast's%busiest beaches will have%extra lifeguards on duty this summer.

At its last meeting, Byron Shire Council approved the employment of a second lifeguard at Byron Bay's Main Beach for the entire season.

Brunswick Heads Main Beach also gets a second lifeguard, but only for school holidays in the summer and autumn.

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy said both beaches had crowds which stretched one lifeguard to the limit.

"If he was up doing first aid there was no lifeguard on the beach," Mr Leahy said.

"The other advantage is in a major rescue one lifeguard will be able to support the%other."

Last year the council was criticised for not funding a%second lifeguard at Byron Bay's Main Beach when it was revealed hundreds of swimmers were left to fend for themselves while the lifeguard took a toilet break.

The problem was highlighted by three drowning deaths at Tallow Beach.

When asked whether two extra lifeguards were enough, Mr Leahy said he was 'very supportive' of the council's increased allocation.

"To provide full-time lifeguards throughout the shire right around the year would at least quadruple the expense to council," Mr Leahy said.

"We understand there is%only a limited amount of%money to provide services to the community."

Mr Leahy said he had been working closely with the council identifying major issues along the beach.

The new lifeguards will start on Monday, December 10, and work through until the autumn school holidays. From November 12-16 there will be a Northern NSW lifeguard school.

"Thirty people will be selected out of that school to be employed as professional lifeguards throughout the summer," Mr Leahy.

"All the positions are open to ensure we can get the best possible lifeguards on the beach."

Many of those recruits will come from local, volunteer life saving clubs who are on-hand to provide emergency rescues outside of professional patrol periods.



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