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Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club $300k away from $2.5m ‘refresh’ target

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An artist impression of the redeveloped Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club.

Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club is close to meeting its fundraising target of $2.5 million to complete the refurbishment of its clubrooms.

Physical work to refurbish the club buildings started after Easter, as funding is in place to cover the cost of the primary renovation and remediation work, however, extra funding is needed to properly refresh a number of internal spaces, and provide some “aesthetic” features.

Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club manager Dianna Harrison said the club had $300,000 left to raise.

Apart from “aesthetic” features, Harrison said the club was also looking to install a new kitchen and new toilets on the first floor.

She said the facility would be in operation next summer in “some way, shape or form”.

The refurbishment was launched in 2022 as “Project Transform”, when a building report identified issues with the 55-year-old facility.

The report described the facility as “worn out, structurally defective, does not meet the required seismic standards, and doesn’t work well for its purpose”.

As the building had largely withstood the extreme conditions posed by its beachfront location, and the basic foundations remained sound, the dedicated project committee decided to design the new facility around the existing structural framework, “saving the huge extra cost of a complete rebuild”.

The club had secured $1.1m in funding from Surf Life Saving NZ, $200,000 in lottery funding, and also committed $500,000 of its own funds for the necessary renovation and remediation work.

The $300,000 would go towards an additional “refresh”.

Apart from major structural reinforcement, the renovation would include replacement of all external cladding, decking, and the roof, as well as new ceilings and insulation.

There will also be a new main entrance, offices, a covered side accessway, a new patrol tower, a new front deck area and a new stairway to the mezzanine area and patrol tower.

Since the club set up shop in town in 1949 with the mission to “save lives by protecting the Whangamatā beachgoers through our people” a lot has changed.

Harrison said the services the club provided today were far-reaching, as it not only provided lifesaving services, but regularly offered first-aid assistance, after-hours search and rescue (SAR) support, surf and beach education, and sporting activities for youth.

She said the clubrooms were used by school groups, sports clubs and training organisations, throughout the year.

The new Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club clubrooms in 1967.
The new Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club clubrooms in 1967.

Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club history

The first clubrooms, located in front of the camping ground, were built by volunteers in 1949, when the town’s population was less than 400.

In 1953, the club started to grow along with the surf lifesaving movement and through the generosity of the Williamson family, the club relocated to its present location in Williamson Park.

New clubrooms were built and in 1957 extensions were added, including a carport to house an ex-army jeep that had been converted to use as a rescue vehicle.

In September 1965, the building burnt down.

A temporary, small container-like shed was built, and a large tent was placed in the front as a gathering point for members.

Led by club member Malcolm Lusby, an Auckland builder, new clubrooms were constructed in less than two years.

Lusby donated his own labour, and that of his tradesmen, and thanks to the generosity of suppliers and locals, the new clubrooms were completed mortgage-free for $30,000.

In December 1967, Surf Life Saving NZ president Alby Veant and club president George Webb officially opened the new facility.

Over the years, the facility has undergone a few changes and some additions were made as the club grew and updated to meet fire and seismic standards.

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