Volunteer surf patrols pulled from beaches one month early
SURF life saving patrols will be pulled from NSW beaches, effective immediately.
The organisation announced the news in a message to members and via a public statement today.
The decision will mean the patrol season is ending one month early.
Effective immediately all patrols by volunteer surf lifesaver on NSW beaches will be cancelled.
Support operations including jetskis and rescue boats will provide a roving presence while emergency callout teams will be on standby.
"Our number one priority is ensuring the safety and welfare of our volunteer members. It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to continue beach patrols while at the same time implement the necessary social distancing measures to protect surf lifesavers from the risk of COVID-19 infection," Surf Life Saving NSW president George Shales said.
"We have a duty as lifesavers to protect the lives of the public on our beaches and along the coastline and we have a proud tradition of doing just that.
"However, Surf Life Saving NSW also has a duty of care to its volunteers to protect and keep them safe.
"It's with our members' welfare in mind that the decision was made to cancel the remaining patrols this season - after careful consideration and consultation with key stakeholders."
Mr Shales said cancelling patrols with Easter ahead was "an enormously difficult decision" for the board.
But he felt it was one that would keep their members safe while sending a strong message to the public: one that social distancing is a priority.
Surf Life Saving CEO Steven Pearce said at least five people drown on the NSW coast between now and the end of April each year.
Another 650 people are typically rescued in that time.
"We are very concerned about the potential for increased drownings without our surf lifesavers on duty and I want to send a clear message to the public about the need for heightened vigilance and caution," Mr Pearce said.
"We strongly warn that no one should swim at an unpatrolled location and exercise caution whilst recreating on the coastline.
"Please be careful - particularly during the school holiday period when more children are on the beach. Remember that our volunteer surf lifesavers will not be present on the beach to protect you and keep you safe as they normally are. We urge everyone to think twice before heading to the beach.
"With the cancellation of patrols, we're urging members of the public to remain vigilant and to look out for each other and to call triple-0 if they see someone in distress in the water."