Wrong time to talk lifeguards
TWEED mayor Barry Longland says it would be inappropriate to talk about whether more lifeguards are needed on the Tweed Coast while the search for missing 16-year-old Kenyan student Samuel Macharia continues.
Council staff are continuing to grieve the apparent loss of the Lindisfarne school student and promising young soccer player who had been hosted for the past five years by two council officers.
He went missing at Cabarita Beach on Sunday afternoon and searchers yesterday continued to look for him while friends maintained a sombre vigil at the beach.
On Tuesday long-time battler for improved lifeguard services on the Tweed Coast Roger McLeod said his heart went out to those missing Samuel, but he had warned too often that drownings along the coast could be prevented by paid lifeguards who could warn people contemplating swimming about dangerous conditions.
But Cr Longland said it was not the time to discuss the issue.
"I don't particularly want to buy into an argument on this. With this lad who's gone missing, there's a lot of concern in council.
"The people he's been living with for the past five years are both council officers."
Cr Longland said he would "hate to be implying somehow" that council decisions on when lifeguards are provided were inappropriate.
Volunteer lifeguards patrol some beaches along the Tweed Coast on weekends during the summer surfing season and Tweed Shire Council funds contract lifeguards during summer school holidays.
Cr Longland said he had met Samuel and staff at the council were "very upset", particularly general manager Mike Rayner who oversaw a council mentoring program to help a village in Kenya access clean water.
Council staff later funded the visit of Samuel, an orphan, to Australia and the family hosted him when he was later granted a student visa.
"Mike has had to make contact with family members back in Kenya. It's been very hard," said Cr Longland.
Mr McLeod warned of the need for more lifeguards after a drowning also at Cabarita Beach in 2009.
After another drowning two years earlier at Kingscliff he gave a similar warning to a inquest held at the Murwillumbah courthouse.
Mr McLeod said while his heart went out to the family he was saddened his earlier warnings had once again not been heeded.