Maketu surf lifesaver Mark Redmond will create a little bit of history this week, becoming the first person from his club to attend National Lifeguard School in Whangamata.
And while he’s looking forward to leaping out of a helicopter and learning advanced rock-rescue skills, he’s unlikely to be the last from Maketu to get that opportunity, thanks to recently-announced sponsorship by kiwifruit marketing giant Zespri.
The Mount Maunganui-based company has committed $400,000 to backing lifeguard education in the Eastern Region, covering Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, for the next three years.
Each year, Zespri will fund up to eight scholarships to National Lifeguard School, provide leadership opportunities, cover the cost of regional IRB training camps and patrol captain courses and sponsor the annual awards of excellence.
That’s music to the ears of 19-year-old Redmond, who has spent his four years in the surf lifesaving movement doing all he can to build his knowledge. He’s already a qualified IRB crewman and driver, has worked as a patrol captain and has passed all three first aid levels on offer.
“I’ve always looked up to lifeguards and respected what they do in the water and in the community,” Redmond said. “It’s pretty rewarding to give something back, by getting as skilled as I can, and the more qualifications I get through, the more I want to try for.”
His mum Angelique has been heavily involved in the revival of the club in the last five years and Redmond’s two siblings have also joined. The teenager, who hopes to have a future career as a paramedic or involved in the medical profession, has now started to train younger lifeguards at the club, working towards his instructor’s certificate.
“One of the guards that I’ve trained is going to intermediate lifeguard school next week, so hopefully he’ll be getting the chance to go to National Lifeguard School one day soon too.”
Maketu chairman Mike Hickson said Zespri’s lifeguard education funding would make a huge difference, especially to little clubs like his own.
“Because we’re a lower socio-economic area and a lot of our guards are young, we get a lot of turnover, as kids head off to university or join the navy or move elsewhere for work,” Hickson explained. “While we’ve got them, we try to give them as much expertise as possible, sending them on courses and upskilling them. Sending Mark to National Lifeguard School is recognition of his abilities but it’s also going to be hugely beneficial for the younger guards he’s bringing through.”
Hickson explained the kiwifruit industry was a huge part of the Maketu and wider Te Puke region and many kiwifruit growers, packhouse staff and seasonal workers were frequent users of the idyllic Bay of Plenty beach.
This weekend’s course will see five lifeguards from Eastern Region taking part, with Waihi Beach’s Ellena Regan joining Gisborne mother and son Michelle and Connor Mitchell and Hot Water Beach’s David Hotham. An earlier intake in Taranaki in December saw 19 lifeguards from all over the country receive their Advanced Lifeguard award, the highest qualification offered by Surf Life Saving New Zealand.