Surf lifeguards across the country are preparing for a bumper post-lockdown summer on New Zealand’s beaches.
Ahead of the patrol season starting this long weekend, there are concerns resources will be tested more than ever with many beachgoers eager to hit the water.
“The fact that we're not travelling overseas, we are expecting huge crowds on the beaches,” Surf Lifesaving New Zealand’s search and rescue manager Allan Mundy told 1 NEWS.
Complicating things further, international lifeguards who often bring experience to patrols on the country’s busiest coastlines won’t be allowed in due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, officials have been working with their international counterparts in Britain, the United States and Australia to learn how they’re keeping beaches under control during the pandemic.
“Their public were choosing to swim on beaches that people had never swum on before and that was a real risk because they didn't have any lifeguard cover,” Mundy said.
Some Sydney beaches shut down this month when they became too packed, something that’s not being ruled out here if coronavirus returns in the community.
“We're endeavouring to work in those Covid levels as much as possible, but we've got to understand that the safety of our lifeguards have to come first, they're volunteers, they have to go home to their families”.
Lifeguards have been told by one of their equipment suppliers that Kiwis have been spending up large on water equipment like boogie boards, boats and other recreational gear to prepare for holidays here instead of abroad.
Some say many will have "all the gear and no idea".
“It's all these things that are going to lead to one of our summers probably being one of the busiest we've had,” Piha lifeguard Duncan Clarke said.
“If the lead-up to summer’s anything to go by, it’s gonna be mad.”
The advice is to swim at a lifeguarded beach and between the red and yellow flags if they’re up.
Weekend patrols begin at some beaches from Labour Weekend and run until April.