A death at Waipatiki beach is "inevitable" unless a plan to put in a surf lifeguard service there next summer, at a cost of almost $100,000, finds support from Hawke's Bay funders.
The Hastings District Council's community grants committee is considering Surf Lifesaving New Zealand's request to put a permanent lifeguard service on the popular beach north of Napier.
Surf Lifesaving's Hawke's Bay club development officer, David Beattie, told the committee this week Waipatiki was a high-risk beach, on a par with Ocean and Waimarama beaches.
"But there is no service at Waipatiki. We are a charity, we don't have the funds to mount that service but do recognise it is a high risk.
"There is an exploding population there. The Waipatiki farm park may have 350 people on any given day. In recent years, paving of the road has increased the user pattern to Waipatiki so now it is popular and easy to access," he said.
A coastal public safety report of the beach requested a trial surf lifeguard service for the 2013/14 summer season to see whether it was worth making it permanent.
Surf Lifesaving New Zealand's application to the committee's contestable fund was for $91,542 for the Waipatiki service.
Mr Beattie said it was "a big ask" but some of the costs could be "moved around" if other organisations such as the Napier city and Hawke's Bay regional councils supported the initiative.
"One cost we can't move around is the cost of wages for a lifeguard to provide that service, which amounts to about $23,000. With respect to equipment, we can find ways to beg and borrow in the first instance to mount a trial.
"From that trial, we believe we could provide the hard evidence to suggest a patrol should be ongoing."
The committee heard the Government set the price of a life lost at $1.5 million. In the past five years, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand has rescued 5927 people at beaches.
Mr Beattie said, long term, Waipatiki could establish its own club to encourage locals to become involved in lifesaving, just as people had in Waimarama.
"The long-term solution is input from a local club. It is a complex issue which could have complex partnership solutions.
"We are trying to prevent an inevitable death. It's going to happen and you should be fearful. It could be a local resident trying to execute a rescue they're not prepared for."
Surf lifesaving officials also want to see better signage at the beach and information going out to people using the area, highlighting the potential dangers.