It was the annual raising of the flags for New South Wales SLSC’s on Saturday – the start of the NSW school holidays and the official opening of the SLSC season.
Far North Coast
Patrols are now underway from Tweed Heads to Yamba, with 4818 local surf lifesavers enlisted to help protect Far North Coast beachgoers this summer.
Last season, volunteers from Far North Coast Surf Lifesaving dedicated 21,707 hours, performing 91 rescues and tending first aid to 567.
David Rope, Director of Administration at Far North Coast Surf Lifesaving said despite recent obstacles presented by COVID-19, his team are equipped and ready for the upcoming summer months.
‘Spending time at the beach is a way of life for many locals. Our dedicated team has worked tirelessly to develop the necessary COVID safety plans that will allow our beaches to stay open and safe this summer.’
New Woolgoogla Surf Club Opens for the Patrol Season
The town of Woolgoolga on the North Coast has plenty to celebrate with the official opening of a new Surf Life Saving Club to service the members and the community. The $4M facility was funded from a mix of grants from Federal, State and Local Governments.
Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales OAM and club President Les Pepper were joined by the Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan and Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh for the official opening and ceremonial ‘Raising of the Flags’ at Woolgoolga on Saturday.
The new patrol season brings a number of challenges for clubs and lifesavers, including an expected huge influx of tourists to beaches across the state this summer due to overseas travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
With a near-record 49 coastal/ocean drownings recorded in NSW last year, the state’s surf lifesavers are on high alert, prepared for what could be one of the biggest seasons on record.
‘We’re expecting beaches to be very busy this season and our lifesavers are trained and ready,’ said Mr Shales.
The Woolgoolga SLSC has been a labour of love for a dedicated team of volunteers, none more so than long-serving president of the club, Les Pepper.
Since 2012, Les has been the driving force behind the push for a new base for the 88 year-old club, to provide a safe and secure facility for lifesavers to train and house all the vital rescue equipment needed to provide patrols on the beach each season.
‘The old club was in a pretty bad state with no room for most of our equipment, said Mr Pepper. ‘Now we can store all our rescue equipment, boats and vehicles in one place, instead of having gear sitting in people’s garages and front yards. It will greatly reduce our response times to rescues and other emergencies.’
A SLSC rescue in July
Before the new club was even finished, Les and another member Neville Cleary were able to mobilise quickly to save the lives of two young girls in distress in the water.
‘We were at the club doing some work in July when we got a call that there were people in trouble at back beach. We were able to respond straight away using the support operations vehicle and used the rescue board on the truck to get to them before it was too late.
‘Saving the lives of those two people alone has made the investment in this new club worthwhile,’ he said.
The new digs are a testament to the dedication of Les and his team. The purpose built facility has been well-thought out, designed to make the most of the new location, with a layout that allows for multi-purpose activities to service both club members and the local community.
All those involved in making the new club a reality were thanked for their contributions, large or small, including the former local MP Andrew Fraser who secured a large proportion of the funding and the project manager Jim Philippidis, who volunteered his time for the year it took to complete the build.
‘This process has taken eight years and countless hours of meetings but it has been worth every minute to come up with this magnificent building,’ said Mr Pepper.