It's been a 'godsend' for smaller clubs, while Zespri's support of Surf Life Saving in the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne regions has given larger clubs a significant boost too.
The partnership between the kiwifruit marketing giant and Surf Life Saving New Zealand's Eastern Region reaches a one-year milestone this weekend, coinciding with 29 young lifeguards from 14 of the 19 clubs in the region attending the Zespri Intermediate Lifeguard School in Whiritoa.
Included are two teenagers from the Hot Water Beach Lifeguard Service, with local chairman Gary Hinds' daughter Taimania joining clubmate Julian Everth at the two-day camp.
Zespri has so far provided free education for 214 Eastern Region lifeguards, enabling clubs to send candidates for further training in first aid, Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) skills and leadership and lifesaving development, which Hinds Snr is hugely appreciative of.
"We've got 60 lifeguards at Hot Water Beach and 55 of those are local kids, who we need to keep coming through into senior positions, so any support we can get from other sources to educate people or teach our lifeguards is valuable because it takes the pressure off us," Hinds said. "Hot Water Beach is quite unique - we are probably one of the busiest beaches in the country - but the other side of that is there's only 50 ratepayers here. We haven't got a big base to tap into for sponsors so anything we can get from somewhere else is a godsend."
Smaller clubs like Maketu, Opotiki, Whiritoa and Tairua will also be represented at this weekend's school, which is part of a $400,000 commitment by Zespri to the region's clubs over a four-year period.
The support has been in many other areas too; in the last year, all 19 clubs have received four Zespri rescue tubes each, while Whangamata (Coromandel), Mount Maunganui (Bay of Plenty) and Waikanae (Gisborne) each received $5000 towards new lifesaving equipment for winning their respective regional club of the year titles at their annual awards ceremony. Three Eastern Region lifeguards were also awarded scholarships to attend the National Lifeguard School in Whangamata last year.
Eastern Region club chairs chairman Paul Treanor said the skills lifeguards had spent all winter honing had been put into immediate effect on the region's beaches so far this summer.
"Zespri's support, particularly in the lifeguard education space, has made a real and tangible difference to the quality of lifeguards on our beaches," Treanor said. "Our clubs are not only dedicated to keeping our beaches safer but also to developing and nurturing our members, which ties in beautifully with what Zespri is hoping to achieve."
Zespri's General Manager Grower & External Relations Dave Courtney is delighted the partnership is working as intended, with around 85 percent of Zespri Kiwifruit grown in the three regions and many growers having close ties with their local beaches.
"Promoting sustainability and social responsibility in the communities which support our industry is really important to us and this partnership is a very easy fit for us," Courtney said. "This last year we've got to work with many outstanding people in the surf life saving community, volunteers who help keep the public safer on local beaches and produce many of our future leaders. We're extremely proud to support our 19 local clubs and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship."
Click here to watch a video showcasing Hot Water Beach's lifeguards and patrolling environment.
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823