19 January 2024

Tathra community shells out to keep beachgoers safe

| Claire Sams
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A lifeguard in uniform watching people in the water

For almost a decade, community members have raised money to cover the cost of lifeguards on Tathra Beach in February. Photo: Kristy McBain/Facebook.

Almost 10 years after a string of tragedies on Far South Coast beaches, businesses and community groups in one small village are continuing to band together to keep visitors safe.

For the past nine years, Tathra businesspeople have been putting their hands into their own pockets to cover the cost of having lifeguards on the beach from Monday to Friday when volunteers are not on duty.

It’s a measure designed to keep beachgoers safe, and tourists visiting the picturesque spot.

“The beach is generally safe – but there are bad conditions at times,” Tathra business owner Rob White said.

In Tathra, the past nine years have seen businesses and community organisations raising money to cover the cost of some of the region’s lifeguards working during February.

“Around about 10 years ago, there was a run of tragedies [on the area’s beaches],” Mr White said.

“A few of us got together and thought, ‘Let’s do something about this’.

“We were getting more and more people coming here in February, and the last thing we wanted was another tragedy.”

The group approached community organisations and Bega Valley Shire Council, and developed an initiative that would see the costs of additional lifeguards covered for Tathra Beach.

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The program sees lifeguards working Monday to Friday shifts, while Tathra Surf Club volunteers continue patrolling on weekends and public holidays until Easter.

“We’ve been paying for another five weeks of lifeguarding from professional lifeguards,” Mr White said.

“For this year we’ve raised a sum of about $15,000.”

While the initiative did receive council funding in the past, Mr White said that had ended.

Mr White said that while the earlier summer months were more popular with tourists, that didn’t mean none would come in February.

“A lot of young families come to Tathra for the holidays in February, because it’s a bit cheaper and out of the peak season,” he said.

“We have a lot of the young families coming here [who] are not familiar with our beaches.

“A lot of retirees will come in February, because they’re not tied to the school holidays.”

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Mr White said the program meant residents and visitors alike could sit back and enjoy their time at the beach.

“From our perspective, we can breathe easy and relax,” he said.

“We can know that when we invite a family here to have their summer holiday, we know that they’re going to be safe.

“This year has been a horrible year for drowning tragedies on the NSW coast.”

Mr White said it was important public safety programs – including those around water – were funded.

“We’ve seen increasing numbers of people visiting Tathra and Tathra Beach,” he said.

“To my best recollection, last year we averaged about 380 swimmers per day, which is a significant number.

“It’s just a matter of prioritising things and deciding if public beach safety is important or not – we think it is.”

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