A shortage of lifeguards is forcing reduced hours at the Tinwald Pool for the rest of summer.
The lifeguard shortage is impacting Ashburton District Council-run pools, with the EA Networks Centre (EANC) based team also covering the Tinwald community pool, but also other centres across the country.
The shortage has hit harder in Ashburton in recent weeks, due to a combination of staff returning to university and multiple fulltime lifeguards isolating due to Covid, group manager people and facilities, Sarah Mosley, said.
“It has been disappointing to reduce Tinwald’s operational hours sporadically during this season, however, it was the only option given the staff we had available,” Mosley said.
“Like many other facilities around New Zealand, we’ve had lifeguard vacancies all summer, which has made it challenging to staff both pools.”
It meant at Waitangi weekend, in the middle of a run of 30 degree days, the pool hours were reduced, and even closed on the Saturday.
The council lifeguard team consists of six fulltime permanent staff and 14 part-time employees, Mosley said.
“We require 384 lifeguard hours per week to operate EANC in accordance with our Pool Safe Certification, and when the Tinwald Pool is open, we need an additional 119 lifeguarding hours per week.”
That’s a total of 503 lifeguard hours every week in the peak of summer to keep both facilities open, but this summer they don’t have the cover.
“Given these challenges, and with the end of the season approaching, Tinwald Pool will now be open Friday to Sunday to align with higher usage.”
There is a Children’s Day event in the Tinwald Domain on March 5, which is also the last day of the Tinwald Pool season, which will be free entry, Mosley said.
Following some recent recruitment, Mosley said they still have six shifts needing filled at EANC.
Other community pools are not run by council, and Mosley said they follow a non-supervised season subscription (key holder) operation model.
“Some offer hours where supervision is provided, whereas others don’t, and most rely on parents or guardians supervising children.”
Mosley said the council supports and funds some health and safety related projects and operational costs for five pools – Hinds, Rakaia, Mt Somers, Ruapuna, and Mayfield, which are on council land but are managed by community groups.
There are seven other community pools in the district that are not on council land and managed by community groups – Willowby, Hampstead, Fairton, Dorie, Wakanui, Lauriston, and Methven.
The Methven Community Pool has been closed this summer as fundraising efforts continue to raise the $250,000 for major repairs.
Ōpuke Thermal Pools in Methven utilises lifeguards for its discovery (all ages) pools and director James McKenzie said they are always on the hunt for lifeguards.
“We are a lot better off this year than the same time last year, but could always do with a couple more as many only work part-time on a casual basis,” McKenzie said.
- By Jonathan Leask