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Address to attendees of SLSNR Season Review

Posted by SLSNR Admin on Friday, 29 April 2016


Re: Address to attendees of SLSNR Season Review

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for joining us tonight.  This is our opportunity to acknowledge the support you have extended to Surf Life Saving Northern Region over the last year and demonstrate how that assistance enables us to continue serving the community's needs. This partnership has kept hundreds of thousands of beachgoers safe every time they have visited the beach or participated in recreational activities on and around beaches from the Waikato to the far north. That is something all of us can and should be proud of.

Although there are many familiar faces in the room, by way of introduction, I am Matt Williams Chief Executive Officer of Surf Life Saving Region and it my pleasure to share this evening and our successes with you. Surf Life Saving Northern Region itself probably does not need too much of an introduction but in essence, we are a volunteer emergency rescue service with a mission to prevent drowning and injury on the region's beaches and coastlines. 

We are a frontline emergency organisation in the same mould as Fire, Police, Ambulance and Coastguard and to deliver this service we coordinate the activities of the 17 clubs in our region and ensure strong linkages into the wider emergency response & search & rescue service locally. Northern region clubs extend from Waikato's Raglan Beach right up to Ahipara at the top of the North Island. Due to our regional climate, accessibility and population, our clubs undertake a substantial proportion of total lifesaving activity for the whole of New Zealand. 

Through club development and operation our main activities include surf lifesaving services, community education, sport and leadership development; all of which support the core business of public safety and provision of emergency services. What does this all really mean?  It means that, every year some of the most frequented and dangerous beaches in New Zealand are kept safe thanks to the work of our amazing volunteers, work that we know will continue to be made possible through your support and our partnerships.

Let's have a look at our key achievements and outcomes this past season:


This season has been a very busy one. But even in such high demand periods, we continue to deliver.  For the past five years we have reported that the current season has been busier than that preceding it - and this season is no different - Put crudely BUSINESS IS BOOMING and the need for the services we provide continues to grow!

Despite having the highest beach user statistics in the country we have one of the lowest per capita coastal drowning rates because of the job we do. This year alone, while acting as the infrastructure that allows safe, monitored recreation to occur at our favourite coastal playgrounds throughout the region…. 'Swimming at the beach'  for those non-lifeguards in the room….. We have been a welcome sight to hundreds of thousands of mums, dad's, children, tourists, neighbours and everything in between at our patrolled areas over the last year.

In the Northern Region our volunteer and paid lifeguards have put in over 80,000 hours of patrolling.  In total we have rescued 582 people at our beaches, almost ten times the number of people who have joined us tonight. We provided 653 first aid treatments and kept over 130,000 people from getting into difficulty in the surf through preventative actions - 25% more than previous years. These stats indicate the community relies heavily of the services we provide for their wellbeing and without those services the region's water safety record would be far less positive.


Surf Life Saving  Northern Region keep our communities safe at the beach, not just through our patrolling but our work in educating a generation of our community enabling them to safely access our coastal environment. This year we reached 15,000 homes while delivering our Community Education suite of programmes. Education has become increasingly more important as a way of tackling the new challenges presented by the growth in diversity of migrant populations in Auckland, many of whom do not share the same level of awareness of the dangers of our beaches.

Surf Education has grown in many ways over the last few years, most noticeably so in our most high impact beach education programme which teaches school-aged children surf safety in the best possible environment - at the surf life saving facility and taught by our lifeguard instructors.  Since the 2012/13 season our beach education participation has grown by 42% with nearly 13,000 kids going through the programme this year. For an organisation our size that kind of growth is phenomenal and means we continue to work diligently to access new funding sources to enable us to continue delivering to low income audiences.

Another success story has been our 'City Nippers' programme which is literally bursting at the seams. City Nippers is one of our newer programmes aimed at the urban demographic who can't get to a surf club location used for our traditional junior surf model. This year all of our City Nipper programmes were full to capacity and the growth and demand for this programme has led us to begin a review of our Community Education suite to ensure we continue delivering to the city's need and no child gets turned away.

Our leadership development courses & youth camps also allow our young lifeguards to develop the skills & confidence necessary to be influential role models within their communities while preparing themselves for leadership roles later in life.


This season has been another superb one in the sports arenas, one of the highpoints being Northern Region's clean sweep of the inaugural New Zealand Inter District Championships where Northern Region's High Performance athletes made a clean sweep taking out the Open, Youth and Surf Boat Series, and we did it in style.

Competition numbers continue to grow and we continue to deliver large scale, professional events that challenge and grow the capacity of our membership. But why just hear me talk about it. [Sport video played]


Our ongoing quest for sustainability continues, successfully, in both the financial and club domains. We continue to provide more services which requires more growth which in turn means more costs. However the value of the work done by our lifeguards is still exponentially far greater than the cost. Of course, the biggest part of our sustainable future is about our people and our membership numbers. These continue to grow and pleasingly a significant area of growth is in our junior surf area.

The growth of junior surf means that we have more young people entering the pathway of lifesaving and also means that we are reaching substantially more of the community with our surf safety messaging through the parents and caregivers of junior surf members. We continue to grow our lifeguard numbers, our lifeblood,  to ensure our clubs have the bench strength to continue delivering growing community needs. Looking forward to the future we have plenty going on off the beach to keep us occupied and many new initiatives planned in the coming year to ensure continued growth and enhance the value of our services within the Northern Region.

In particular areas of focus over the coming year

  • A full scale review of our biggest cost centre - The Regional Lifeguard Service which contracts with councils to deliver weekday lifeguard services when our lifeguards can't be their during the peak summer months
  • Greater partnering and collaboration with other emergency services
  • Fully review our community education programmes to ensure education is effectively delivered, hits the mark, at-risk segments are identified and better catered to, and we are delivering the most cost effective model.
  • Continue to build superior event safety capability  to support the growth of Northern Region as a leading region for water sports
  • Show case to the world the sport side of surf lifesaving  on our Auckland beaches as part of the World Masters Games
  • Develop a future-proof digital strategy
  • Continue to strengthen financial capability through long term commercial partnerships
  • Strengthen club sustainability through the effective delivery of the Surf 10:20 facility rebuild programme
  • and enhanced governance, financial, health and safety, constitutional and strategic discipline

This last of these is a big issue for us with many significant regulatory changes occurring that will provide the platform for us to positively change the landscape we operate in. This year SLSNR is looking at one of its biggest years 'off the beaches' as we:

  • Roll out new changes to the Public Benefit Entity Accounting Framework
  • Develop a leading health and safety culture to ensure our practises off the beach are as good as those we provide to the public
  • Develop and roll out a new fit for purpose constitution
  • And further challenge our clubs on the most equitable and efficient allocation of operational funding.

What are we hoping to achieve from this?

As an organisation we understand acutely the responsibility we have to deliver value not only to the community we serve but also our member clubs. More and more we understand the need to grow the support services provided by the regional office to ensure we provide the necessary resource and leadership to our member clubs - again this growth comes at a cost.

 In order to fulfil our primary purpose of preventing drownings on our beaches we have to ensure our organisation is working efficiently and effectively with stakeholders, our community and with commercial partners to maximise the value our organisation creates.

To do this we need to continually be ahead of the curve, attracting young volunteers to our movement. And in a world of increasing lifestyle choice and opportunity, the experience we give our lifeguards, their parents and the users of our beaches are critical to ensuring our beaches remain a crown jewel in the Waikato, Auckland and Northland lifestyle and tourist choices. And all this must be done in an environment where we can all admit it takes more and more to be a volunteer.

The outcomes we are looking to create for all our stakeholders includes

  • Maintaining a zero-drowning statistic between the flags and making a significant impact on the drowning rate of at-risk segments outside the flags
  • Making our flags 'a destination' - Delivering superior beach experiences for residents, tourists, volunteers and partners through our professionalism and dedication.
  • Grow our reputation as an leading organisation within the emergency services & water safety education sectors
  • Grow our brand and ensure our treasured status in communities. Great culture and goodwill associated with our brand can be of commercial value to partners and sponsors
  • Ensure our organisations future through securing stable funding, effective resource usage and increased capability within our people and clubs
  • Engage the public and provide an education pathway to increased community capability on our beaches
  • Retain and grow our talented youth leaders and volunteers and continue our traditions of being "in it for life" as individuals and as families


Before I leave you to enjoy each other's company there are two future events I'd like to draw your attention too. First the Toyota Financial Services SLSNR Awards of Excellence on Saturday the 25th of June at Shed 10 in the viaduct.  And further afield as we look to next season the 2016 Season Launch during Labour weekend. Invites will be out shortly.

Again I would like to thank you all for your ongoing advocacy and support for our service. We requested your assistance to help us ensure our beaches remain safe and well utilised public assets and to ensure our community's reputation as an active & outdoor one is enhanced.  You have continued to provide that vital support and for that we are extremely grateful. 


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