Despite the wet and gloomy weather in many areas, surf lifeguards across the country were kept busy on Christmas Day, with 13 rescues and 10 assists performed nationally. In total, more than 2,197 hours were spent patrolling Aotearoa New Zealand’s coastlines on Christmas Day, while 789 preventative actions by Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) surf lifeguards kept the public safe.
While many regions were relatively quiet, this did not stop the occurrence of several major incidents, including a mass rescue performed at Wainui near Gisborne, a multi-
service (SLSNZ, Coastguard New Zealand, and Police) search and rescue operation for a missing kite surfer at Raglan, multiple rescues at Waipātiki, and the treatment and helicopter transfer of a suspected spinal injury at Whangamatā, involving SLSNZ surf lifeguards, Hato Hone St John, and Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
At Piha, two members of the public ignored surf lifeguard advice about a safe place to swim. The refusal to follow this advice resulted in surf lifeguards being required to perform a tube rescue on one of the swimmers, with assistance from an inflatable rescue boat (IRB).
Steve Fisher, SLSNZ CEO, says that one of Surf Life Saving’s core objectives is to intervene early and stop a situation from escalating, and that both paid and volunteer surf lifeguards are present to provide guidance and expert advice to the public.
“We exist to support the public in safely enjoying New Zealand’s coastlines. Surf lifeguards have an excellent understanding of the many dangers present, and we highly recommend that the public heeds our advice, particularly when it comes to some of our country’s more dangerous beaches such as Piha,” he says.
“The situation at Piha could have very easily become a serious or even fatal incident without the second intervention performed by surf lifeguards there, however it is frustrating when members of the public do not heed our early guidance.
“We provide a great deal of information to the public through channels such as Safe Swim website, and through information boards and signage at beaches. But when you arrive at a beach, between the red and yellow flags is always the safest place to swim.”