Shortage of life savers a concern for Evans Head
A SEVERE shortage of volunteers to patrol Main Beach this summer is worrying the Evans Head business community, who fear visitors will be put off by an apparent lack of protection.
Main Beach will be patrolled professionally from 9am to 5pm weekdays during the school holidays, while volunteers with the Evans Head-Casino Surf Life Saving Club historically give their time on the beach during weekends and public holidays.
No patrol on Saturdays
However a terrible lack of bodies this season means that there may be no patrol on Saturdays in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays. And there will likely be no Saturday patrols after that time.
The club has committed to fulfilling all their obligations including Saturdays and public holidays during the December and January school holidays, Easter and the April school holidays, however to meet their Saturday commitments outside of these times will have to rely on volunteers from Lennox, Ballina, Byron and Brunswick.
Local businesses to the rescue
Getting those volunteers to Evans Head is a potential hurdle that has been overcome with the offer of a bus, from Camp Koinonia, and of fuel and food vouchers from other local businesses, including the Silver Sands Caravan Park and the Evans Head Bowling Club.
Bowling club manager Roger Hong said the lack of lifesaver volunteers was 'dramatic' for businesses in Evans Head.
"It is obvious that if people find out there are no patrolled beaches and sharks that they won't come," he said. "We need an action plan. This is a matter of high priority."
Simply paying a lifeguard to patrol on Saturdays was not the answer, with strong objection to that plan from Surf Lifesaving NSW, which has expressed concern that clubs paying for their patrols will water down the very reason for the organisation's existence.
New members wanted
However Evans Head - Casino club treasurer Avan Christie said little surf clubs up and down the coast struggled in the modern age to get patrolling bodies on the beach.
He said Evans Head was doing its best to encourage new members to join, especially school students, but like most young people, new recruits tended to move to the bright lights of a big city before they had a chance to get critical skills, like being in charge of a patrol team or driving an IRB - or 'rubber duck'.
"We really need senior members back, particularly those who have an IRB licence or a crew certificate," he said.
In the interim Richmond Valley Council CEO John Walker said the council was willing to 'pick up the tab' for paid lifeguards and supply transport for volunteers coming from other clubs this summer in a way that wouldn't 'destroy the fabric of the volunteer organisation'.