Beach patrols at risk as council declines to boost funds

WINTER beach patrols at Agnes Water are at risk after Gladstone Regional Council denied Surf Life Saving Queensland's request for more funding.

Main Beach at Agnes Water is the most popular in the Wide Bay Capricornia district.

In just 12 months the number of people visiting that beach during winter doubled to more than 60,000.

The council already gives $214,000 a year to SLSQ, but this week councillors voted not to give a further $30,000 over the next two years.

That extra money would have funded 520 hours of patrol during the winter school holidays and weekends.

A report, presented by council officer Cheryl Barrett, stated there was "no evidence to support the need".

But this has been disputed by SLSQ Wide Bay Capricorn regional manager Craig Holden, who said the numbers spoke for themselves.

Surf lifesavers have been patrolling Agnes Water beach in the winter months since 2013.

That season 37,496 people visited the beach. In 2014, that number doubled to 62,112.

That increase in numbers is why SLSQ Wide Bay Capricorn regional manager Craig Holden was so taken aback by the council decision this week to deny his organisation further funding.

"We believe this is the right time to expand lifeguard services because (of the increase in) numbers through the winter period," Mr Holden said.

He recognised the council did already make a significant contribution and that's why funding was only requested only for the holiday period and weekends, he said. 

Lillie and William Hallett.
Lillie and William Hallett.

"It's the most popular beach in the Wide Bay Capricornia region. There's no doubt about that the visitation numbers prove that.

"The decision we have to make now is whether we can continue the service seven days a week. We will have to weigh up Agnes against other high priority areas."

Mayor Gail Sellers said the council simply could not afford to fund any extra services.

"We consider it an important service, and that's why we fund it," she said.

"We are cutting everything we can and looking at every level of service. We just don't have the funding."

Surf lifesavers essential in winter and summer

ELEVEN-year-old Lillie Hallett knows how important it is to have a lifeguard at the beach.

When she was just eight, a surf lifesaver pulled her from the water when she was drowning.

"I put my hand up and he came and saved me," Lillie said.

"I didn't know what happened and the next thing I knew I was on the boat.

Her mother, Chenelle Irwin, said her children swam all year and for people who didn't come from beach towns, the surf lifesavers were essential in both winter and summer.

In 2014 there were three rescues, 9635 preventative actions and 62,112 visitors at Agnes Water beach.

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