It’s been an iconic, vital part of the community for nearly 90 years; now the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service needs your help to keep saving lives on our beaches.
The MMLS has been serving the community for 90 years next year, and our former building was a mish-mash of renovations and expansions that had taken place over that time. As a result, the lifeguard tower area leaked, the basement flooded in heavy rain, the first aid room was far from discreet for patients, opening onto the carpark in full view of Marine Parade; whilst the club office was tucked out of sight, with a long and meandering trip through the club and past the kitchen to get to the administration hub.
The three-week search for 5-year-old Jack Dixon who was swept off the rocks around the base of Mauao in 2014 really highlighted the shortcomings of our lifeguard centre and was the catalyst for the rebuild project we are now in the midst of.
The emergency response team at that time included: Lifeguards from Mount Maunganui, Omanu and Papamoa as well as the wider north island; Police, Police National Dive Squad, St John, CoastGuard, two rescue helicopters, Port of Tauranga pilot boat, NZ Land Search and Rescue and local volunteers keen to lend a hand.
Jacks family also set up camp inside the club, our kitchen was inundated with baking, soups and meals to keep our crew and Jack’s family nourished, and on the second day of the search the BOP Roller Mills rugby team arrived for their pre-arranged stay ahead of their final tournament of the season. We were at capacity!
As a community we rallied together, and around Jacks family. In the first five days alone, our lifeguards clocked up almost 1,500 volunteer hours – to put that in perspective, our total for the previous six-month summer season was 5,000 volunteer hours.
This incident really stretched our resources, further highlighted our clubhouses limitations and proved to be a pivotal turning point in our refurbishment project (at this time plans were already in place to replace the leaky tower, expand the first aid room adding greater privacy for patients, and reposition the office giving greater visibility).
As part of the debrief we asked club members what was most important to them for the refurbishment. The tower, first aid room and office all ranked highly, but there was also a big call for the club to be durable, to be better equipped to handle an emergency response, to upgrade the accommodation and to improve the entrance and storage spaces.
Based on this, planning moved towards a more comprehensive building refurbishment to be better able to meet the needs of our growing community now and in the future – and before we knew it a full rebuild was commissioned as the existing foundations could not support all that we needed to deliver a world-class multi-use base.
Though this bumped the final building cost up by $1 million (to $3.2 million) just as we were getting underway, there were significant advantages in starting from scratch. New tilt-slab building technology means there will be far more usable space in the basement, meaning larger changing rooms and better usable craft and emergency vehicle storage space. The entire basement slab will also be lifted up 400mm, meaning there will be no more drainage issues in heavy rain. It has also allowed several design tweaks on the top levels too – including greater visibility from the lifeguard tower, more common space to allow more eyes on the beach at all times, better access to equipment for faster response times and better facilities to accommodate an emergency response effort (like the 2011 Rena disaster, the 2014 search for Jack Dixon and the 2016 fire on Mauao which all were managed from our lifeguard centre). With a separate hall and emergency operations room, our core lifeguard duties won’t be disrupted by functions, events and emergency operations, and vise-versa, as has so often been the case in the past.
We have already secured 87% ($2.7 million) of the funding needed; however, with building works already underway (watch our progress HERE), and due for completion by late summer 2019, we urgently need your support to ensure our rebuild is completed and ready for another busy summer season on our beaches.