Tweed beach guard study
By PETER CATON
THE concept of paid, full-time lifeguards has been floated as a way of solving a row over which Tweed beaches should be patrolled in peak holiday periods.
The new workforce would replace contract lifeguards employed for just a few weeks and would stay on the Tweed Council payroll all year round.
Rescue volunteers and former Tweed mayor Warren Polglase yesterday called on Tweed Shire Council administrators to consider employing the full-time lifeguards in line with the Gold Coast model.
The lifeguards would have the same powers as council rangers and could be deployed in other work, such as enforcing dog-bylaws, in the off-season.
The professional team of paid lifeguards would also be able to select the busiest or most dangerous of Tweed's beaches to patrol on a day-by-day basis depending on the need.
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The Gold Coast City Council employs Australia's largest professional lifeguard service with 27 permanent lifeguards and another 80 seasonal guards.
They patrol 20 beaches year round and 42 beaches during school holidays.
Mr Polglase, who was replaced by three administrators when his council was sacked in May, said the time had arrived for full-time lifeguards.
He said increased rates revenue from newly-developed areas such as Casuarina Beach and Salt should easily provide the necessary budget funds.
"This is another one of those issues where the administrators are not connecting with the community," he said.
"We were aware that in times to come, and they have now arrived, we would have to be in a position to employ paid lifeguards like they do on the Gold Coast."
Last week the council administrators voted to spend $122,000 on holiday-period lifeguards for six Tweed beaches but suggested closing Casuarina Beach to swimming rather than meet the $28,000 cost of holiday lifeguards there.
The decision outraged residents of the new billion-dollar seaside township who had flooded the administrators with more than 50 separate requests for the lifeguards.
Last year developer Consolidated Properties provided $10,000 toward the cost but says it has given the money to the new Salt Surf Life Saving Club this year.
Yesterday secretary of the Tweed Coast Sea Rescue squad, Roger McLeod, said his organisation had raised the need for paid council lifeguards with Mr Polglase when he was mayor last summer.
The rescue squad, which is due to open its new Hastings Point boat shed in four weeks in time for the peak Christmas period, provides a year-round volunteer rescue service for recreation boaters and surfers from Black Rocks south of Pottsville to Cabarita Beach.
Mr McLeod said he had previously warned the council in his professional capacity as a squad member that drownings would occur at Casuarina Beach without patrols.
"They are not on the right track with contract lifeguarding. That's failed in many other councils," he said.
"Council lifeguards can implement local government ordinances, things like no drinking on the beach, dogs on the beach and impounding surfboards for surfing within the flags.
"The council should budget every year for a professional, in-house lifeguard service like Wollongong, Manly, Bondi, Maroubra, the Gold Coast and Noosa."
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