Australia’s peak professional lifeguard service has warned that drownings may occur at a popular Tweed Coast beach in future if unpatrolled year round.
A near drowning of a woman pulled from the surf at Salt beach near Kingscliff on Sunday and rescuscitated by lifeguards has highlighted the need for an extended lifeguard service in the Tweed, according to the Australian Lifeguard Service.
The Sydney woman, who was taken to hospital in a critical condition, may make a full recovery thanks to the efforts of professional lifeguards on duty.
The woman had entered the water several hundred metres south of the patrol area and shortly after, lifeguards noticed her in trouble and brought her back to the beach.
They performed CPR and used a defibrillator, before the woman was airlifted to hospital by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
The Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) says the incident highlights the need for an extended professional lifeguard service to be provided in the Tweed region.
Neighbouring council areas of the Gold Coast and Byron Shire have year-round lifeguard services at some locations.
ALS coordinator Brent Manieri said ‘if this incident were to happen in a few weeks’ time, there would be no patrol on the beach and no lifeguards to assist anyone who gets into trouble at this popular location.
The 10-year lifeguard contract at Salt was put in place by Tweed Shire Council as part of the large resort and residential development built along the beachfront just south of Kingscliff.
It has since become a popular tourist hub and established residential community with much activity centred around the beach.
Mr Manieri said ’our lifeguards have done a fantastic job keeping tourists and locals safe and we are working with Salt and the Tweed council to hopefully establish a long-term, extended lifeguard service in the area’.
Tweed council’s general manager Troy Green said that as part of the original DA consent for the tourist development at Salt, the developers were required to provide year-round surf lifesaving for a 10-year period.
‘That 10-year period concludes in April this year (end of swimming season)’, Mr Green said, adding that council had not funded any surf life saving at Salt.
‘Surf Lifesaving Australia risk management arm undertook a risk assessment and treatment plan for the Tweed Coast which provides recommendations for increases in service levels if and when resources are available,’ he said.
‘That prioritises actions if funding became available for additional patrols. That report recommends that Salt Beach receive the same service as other beaches that have volunteer surf clubs.
‘It also said if a year round patrol was to be provided it should be at Kingscliff and not Salt as it is a safer beach.
‘Officers therefore have undertaken a workshop with councillors and will be including a budget allocation in the draft 15/16 budget to fund the same service level at Salt as the existing beaches.
‘This essentially means patrols during the week for the spring, Christmas and autumn school holidays.
‘Weekends are patrolled by the volunteers. Officers have also been liaising with the resorts to ascertain if they would like to contribute to offer an increase in this service level for their guests.
‘Council has also included in its draft 15/16 budget $200,000 (through its contribution plan) towards the Salt Surf Lifesaving Club Stage 1 of the club facility,’ Mr Green told Echonetdaily.