Flags raised on testing surf season

BALLINA and Lennox Head beaches will be patrolled by paid lifeguards from the coming school holidays until the end of April.

But in the Byron Shire, beaches will face the September school holiday influx patrolled only by volunteer lifesavers working on weekends and public holidays.

Tenders have been called for the provision of a paid lifeguard service over the rest of the season and the newly-elected council will vote on the contract at its first meeting on October 23.

This service has been provided for the past 22 years by the Australian Lifeguard Service, a business unit of Surf Life Saving NSW.

Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy said they would reapply.

“We have numerous contracts in NSW and provide the service in accordance with the designations and wishes of local government,” he said.

“Byron Bay has never been patrolled by paid lifeguards during the September school holidays. Normal lifeguard services start in early December and go to the end of the April school holidays.

“Ballina and Lennox Head are patrolled seven months of the year, starting from the September school holidays. Salt at Kingscliff is patrolled 12 months of the year.

The Byron tender called for the usual lifeguard provisions for three years, but also asked for quotes on extra services, including patrols for schoolies week in November, the night of New Year's Eve and at Suffolk Park on weekends.

The Byron Shire Council's manager of open spaces and recreation, Nigel Greenup, said tenders closed on October 3 and he was confident after discussing it with some of the providers that beaches would be patrolled in time for schoolies week.

“Council has to do a bit of a balancing act between what it can afford and what is the reasonable expectation of the community,” he said.

“But all things are able to be reviewed at any stage and after this year we can determine the level of service and can renegotiate with the provider.”

Volunteer lifesavers in Ballina and Byron patrol on weekends and public holidays from September to April.

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