WATER SAFETY UNDER STUDYInternal Affairs
The Minister of Internal Affairs Jack Elder says Surf Life Saving and Water Safety NZ have consistently received substantial support through the Lottery Grants Board despite increasing competition for funds.
Responding to a call from Surf Life Saving New Zealand for a range of initiatives in the wake of last weekend's drownings at Piha, on Auckland's west coast, Mr Elder said he was aware that Water Safety NZ was studying the whole area of beach safety as a matter of urgency and he would be interested in the result.
"The problem of family groups entering dangerous water conditions is not just confined to west coast beaches," he said. "Last summer there were more problems on east coast beaches, particularly in Northland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty because of the La Nina weather conditions."
Mr Elder said he had made it clear to the Lottery Grants Board that it needed to accommodate the growing number of people involved in water sports.
"Funding to Surf Life Saving has remained consistent over the past six years at about $2million each year," he said. "Water Safety NZ funding has fluctuated between $1.4 million and $1.5 million annually over the same period.
"The Lottery Grants Board has to balance its support to a wide range of sectors and there is only so much to go around.
"Other funding sources for water safety, including local government, must look at what they can do."
Mr Elder said he would be reluctant to see surf life saving professionalised.
"The strength of the life saving movement is its voluntary nature and making it taxpayer funded would put many of the advantages derived from this type of organisation at risk," he said.