Surf Life Saving is provisionally supporting a new collaborative funding scheme contained in the Waikato Region’s 2016/17 Draft Annual Plan.
Historically funding has been sourced from individual local bodies which have been fully supportive but recently have been unable to fund services to the required level. The proposed scheme will result in Waikato Regional Council taking responsibility for funding support for lifeguard services provided in the Waikato Region on the west and east coast.
While Surf Life Saving is supportive of the new concept, it is concerned that the preferred council funding model (Option 2) has been budgeted at a level lower than that received by Surf Life Saving for the current season.
Chief Executive Officer of Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Matt Williams said that while resources put into developing the Volunteer Emergency Service funding in the Waikato Region draft annual plan are a significant step forward, the organisation is disappointed that its preferred budget option is not included in the Plan. He says it’s imperative the public is fully informed of all options and the impact of each option on the level of service provided.
“We are aware the public expectation is that we continue to provide the very best service possible. Sadly none of the current funding models proposed by Council allow for this,” said Mr Williams. “If the current budget is adopted, Surf Life Saving would have to consider reducing services – including week day beach patrols.”
In the draft annual plan, the regional council has proposed three options. These will result in annual levies of between $2.07 and $3.74 for each ratepayer in the region to fund emergency services.
“In reality this equates to around the cost of a cup of coffee to assist with the funding of all volunteer emergency services in Waikato,” said Mr Williams.
The best of the current options, Option 3, only just meets the status quo which, Mr Williams says is “realistically a step backwards”.
“To provide the level of service the community currently requires from all four rescue services the overall rate needs to be $5.81 from each ratepayer. This option is not available in the draft plan.”
“While we recognise the complexities involved, we strongly urge the Waikato Regional Council to increase the amount it is budgeting as a matter of urgency and good faith,” said Mr Williams.
BACKGROUND: Beaches and lifesaving services affected by the funding include Sunset Beach, Raglan, Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Hot Water Beach, Tairua, Pauanui, Onemana, Whangamata Harbour and Whiritoa.
Surf Life Saving employs paid life guards during the busiest weeks of the summer season, while club volunteers provide coverage at the weekend. Surf Life Saving also receives funding for its multi-million dollar operating budget from other regional councils and cities where it operates, as well as commercial sponsors.
The draft annual plan is open for submissions, which have to be lodged with the council by 4pm on Monday, 11 April 2016. Surf Life Saving’s preferred rate of $5.81 is not part of the document, but submissions from the public could say it is the preferred option.