MEMBERS of Evans Head's business community are offering food and travel vouchers to Surf Life Saving volunteers in a bid to maintain patrols on the town beaches.
The offer comes after a collapse in volunteer numbers that has left the Evans Head-Casino Surf Life Saving Club unable to patrol the town's beaches on Saturdays and public holidays.
Evans Head-Casino Surf Life Saving Club Vice president David Sly said four volunteer families threw in their red and yellows when their free volunteer caravans were discontinued after the Silver Sands Caravan Park was taken over by state government-owned North Coast Holiday Parks last year.
Mr Sly said the club needed volunteers from Casino and Lismore to fill out its patrol rosters and without them the town was relying on a diminished pool of stalwarts who made great sacrifices to keep the beaches safe.
"You've got a situation where the same volunteers are facing the heat and expense every weekend," Mr Sly said.
"We simply don't have the numbers. Fingal Head has the same problem.
"Unlike Byron and Ballina, which have the population, we rely on volunteers to travel from Casino and Lismore.
"But these days everyone is stretched. The older volunteers are retiring.
"They are becoming disenchanted and worn out and we don't have the younger ones coming through."
The same volunteers were expected to cover the full 9am to 2pm shift in the sun, he said.
"Volunteers pay for their own transport and pay for their own food," Mr Sly said.
"It can be an expensive as well an exhausting day."
The problem is so serious the Evans Head business community, fearing a drop in tourist numbers if beaches are not patrolled, has lent its support to the club's call for new volunteers.
Evans Head beach, which enjoys protection from big east swells, has always sold itself on its safe reputation.
"I think we've always taken safety for granted and promoted it," Roger Hong of Evans Head Bowling Clubs and Holiday Cabins said.
"It would be shame if we had to rethink all that."
The Evans Head business community has promised to do whatever it could to get fresh recruits on patrol, including providing food and travel vouchers. That support also included encouraging employers to look favourably on volunteers.
"We need to recognise volunteers at school and ensure that they are adequately rewarded," Mr Hong said.
"Employers should hire volunteers as their first pick."
Mr Sly said the club needed an expanded membership to maintain itself and Surf Life Saving's proud tradition at Evans Head.
"We also need to encourage all Bronze Medallion holders to come on board and ensure there is a path from Nippers to the volunteer patrols."
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