Zespri Empowers Eastern Region Surf Lifeguards at National Lifeguard School

Tuesday, 5 December 2023

It’s considered the pinnacle of training for surf lifeguards, and this year, four candidates from the Eastern Region attended Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) National Lifeguard School, thanks to Zespri.


The world’s largest marketer of kiwifruit has been a partner of SLSNZ for almost eight years.  As part of this partnership, Zespri awards scholarships to a number of surf lifeguards each year, to help ease the financial requirements for training and development.


Michael Fox, Zespri Head of Global Public Affairs, said, “With our headquarters based in Mount Maunganui, we witness first-hand the incredible work surf lifeguards do to ensure the safety of beachgoers and their whānau who spend the warmer months enjoying the iconic beaches around the region. We understand the huge amount of effort that goes on behind the scenes to ensure surf lifeguards are fit, capable, and skilled to carry out this crucial work.”


The National Lifeguard School is an intensive three-day programme designed for the country’s fastest, fittest, and most committed surf lifeguards.


This year, SLSNZ selected 16 surf lifeguards, including four from the Eastern Region which covers Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, East Cape, and Gisborne Tairawhiti: Ben Goffin, Mitchell Hohaia, Liam Shanahan, and Fergus Rieger.  All candidates had to be 18 years of age and meet a vast list of prerequisites, including swimming 800 metres in under 14 minutes, and running three kilometres in under 20 minutes.  They also needed to be experienced inflatable rescue boat drivers, hold first aid, and be a Patrol Captain.


During the school, participants were taught theory and practical skills.  There were also simulated scenarios replicating some of the more difficult and demanding emergency situations surf lifeguards can face.  These included mass rescue scenarios, advanced first aid, patient care, search and rescue operations, and advanced rock rescues.


Avan Polo, SLSNZ Eastern Region Manager, said “The primary goal of the National Lifeguard School is to equip these surf lifeguards with the necessary tools to respond effectively.  Unfortunately, every season, they respond to serious incidents, some of which can result in a fatality.  With four candidates from the Eastern Region participating this year, they’re able to bring back their experiences to their Surf Life Saving clubs, passing on invaluable knowledge and skills to other members.”


Fox said, “Zespri is proud to support the extraordinary efforts of our local surf lifeguards.  We value their commitment to saving lives, as well as their year-round dedication to ensuring they are ready to go in the busy summer months.  It’s also amazing to see these emerging leaders invest in their own personal growth as the school undoubtedly equips them with invaluable skills that extend well beyond the red and yellow flags.”


Polo added, “We are incredibly grateful for these scholarships.  As a charity, we rely on the generosity of partners like Zespri to help us support and train 4,500 volunteer surf lifeguards around the country, including here in the Eastern Region, where the beach is one of our favourite playgrounds.”


The National Lifeguard School ran from 30 November until 3 December at Waihi Beach, with all candidates receiving SLSNZ’s highest surf lifeguard qualification – the Advanced Lifeguard Award.  With patrol season already underway, the four surf lifeguards from the Eastern Region will be welcomed on the beach as they help ensure beachgoers are safe, with support from Zespri.