Plea to council for lifeguard help

ON GUARD: Two of the lifeguards on duty this February at Tathra are Tony McCabe and Kiama Thatcher. Picture: Sarah Chenhall
ON GUARD: Two of the lifeguards on duty this February at Tathra are Tony McCabe and Kiama Thatcher. Picture: Sarah Chenhall

Council will be turning to Bega MP Andrew Constance for help with the cost of its Australian Lifeguard Services (ALS) contract for the summer period after the contract price submitted by ALS exceeded the allocated amount in council’s budget.

The contract is funded through the special rate variation and $189,000 had been allocated for lifeguard services but council said there was a funding shortfall of $18,900.

ALS has proposed an increase in services including extended services at Bar Beach, Merimbula when low tide is forecast between 5pm and 8pm (tide forecasts predict low tide be after the patrol hours on approximately four days in early January 2018).

The service increases also cover a February Tathra Beach lifeguard extension (previously funded by the Tathra Chamber of Commerce and grants) and the availability of a jet ski for ALS lifeguards and Far South Coast lifesavers for use during patrol hours.

Carmen Risby of Tathra Beachside spoke to council about the importance to the town’s economy of extending lifeguard services in Tathra throughout February.

“The summer used to be the first half of January only but continues through to February. We are fully occupied, we have the best weather and water temperature. Grey nomads and young families with toddlers and babies stay in that time. At my property we bought 12 extra cots last summer,” Ms Risby said.

Ms Risby said that summer bookings had extended into February over the last three years due to the presence of lifeguards funded by the Tathra Chamber of Commerce and grants.

Having the lifeguards at Tathra during that time had “turned around everyone’s opinion of Tathra” Ms Risby said, particularly following the tragic shark attack and a drowning in recent years.

She said that the chamber was willing to provide 50 per cent of the money needed to provide the extra month of Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) cover at Tathra and asked for council’s support.

“What’s your suggestion for the other 50 per cent? That’s great, 50 per cent for money we don’t have,” councillor Robyn Bain said when questions were invited of Ms Risby.

“We received some funding from the Bendigo Bank but we’re the only beach south of Mollymook to the border that is patrolled in February,” Ms Risby replied.

Once you give someone something and then you take it away they will scream like a suck pig. In two years time Andrew Constance may not be the local member.

Councillor Robyn Bain

It was councillor Russell Fitzpatrick who suggested that Mr Constance’s help be sought for the extra funding for the ALS contract which also includes extended services at Bar Beach in January when low tide is forecast between 5pm and 8pm.

“Once you give someone something and then you take it away they will scream like a suck pig. In two years time Andrew Constance may not be the local member,” Cr Robyn Bain said.

Councillor Tony Allen flagged a revamp of the special rate variation saying that council needed to “get on with the tourism special rate variation”.

Councillor Jo Dodds pointed out that it wasn’t just a tourism matter as an “immense number of local people” swim at Tathra too.