Surf lifesavers braced for weather disruptions

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Organisers of the Aquapick New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships in Gisborne have blasted through the penultimate day's programme in a bid to keep ahead of the storm expected to slam into the area in coming days.

Tropical Cyclone Pam has devastated Vanuatu and surrounding Pacific islands and the remnants of the weather system are heading towards New Zealand's east coast.

More than 1500 athletes are competing at the four-day surf lifesaving championships, which are due to finish tomorrow.

"We've kept a close eye on developments, while liaising closely with our local Civil Defence and emergency services, and have adjusted our final day's programme as a result," event manager Prue Younger said.

"We're aiming to finish just after midday tomorrow to allow athletes and supporters the chance to get home safely and we also have the option of tweaking things further if conditions deteriorate tomorrow."

The event has a full health and safety plan and dedicated safety officer, who has been in constant contact with local authorities and forecasters.

Ironically, today's action was held amid blue skies and benign waves at Midway Beach, with larger cyclone-fed swells not expected to hit until Monday.  However, heavy rain is forecast to hit late Sunday night or Monday morning, with a rising south-east wind, putting roads in and out of Gisborne in jeopardy.