LIFEGUARDS will only go on duty at Naracoorte Swimming Lake when the forecast temperature is 30 degrees or higher this summer.
The change from a 25 degree threshold has been made by Naracoorte Lucindale Council in an effort to reduce the operating costs at the lake.
The council also decided that it would provide lifeguards at the Lucindale pool when the forecast was 30 degrees or higher. It didn't provide the service last summer.
The decisions were made at last week's September meeting after a comprehensive review on the lake was tabled by director of operations and technical services Phil Burton.
In another key outcome, councillors approved Mr Burton's recommendation for a first ever full safety assessment of the lake to be carried out by the Royal Life Saving Association of SA.
It will assess information and warning signage at the lake, safety issues including access, fencing, rails and other infrastructure, and the requirement for lifeguards.
Mr Burton's report revealed the council spent $27,463 on providing lifeguards in the 2011-12 swimming season (minimum intervention temperature 25 degrees) and this figure would probably drop to less than $15,000 if the threshold was raised to 30 degrees.
He provided four options for this season:
- Keep the intervention level for lifeguards at 25 degrees and higher.
- Increase it to something higher than 25 degrees, thereby reducing costs but possibly increasing user risk.
- Provide lifeguards at fixed times regardless of temperatures.
- Provide no lifeguards, thereby decreasing costs significantly but probably increasing user risk.
Cr Ken Banning opened the debate on the issue by asking: "Do we actually need lifeguards? Do we actually need to be paying people to be there?"
He said other swimming venues such as lakes and rivers, and even Millicent swimming lake, merely had signs erected saying people swam at their own risk.
Referring to the fact that the Naracoorte lake hadn't always been supervised, Cr John Flynn added: "Where in history did lifeguards suddenly appear?"
Cr Flynn also asked if the temperature was important when considering the safety of lake users.
He asked: "Why is it safe to swim (with no lifeguards on duty) when it's below a certain temperature, but it's not when it reaches a certain temperature?"
Mayor Erika Vickery said the role of a lifeguard was more involved than simply watching lake users for their safety. They performed other activities while on duty.
On the provision of lifeguards, Mr Burton said council had received a lot of legal advice on its responsibilities over the years, and much of the information was open to interpretation.
"It is a public swimming place, so it comes under the guidelines of a pool, so we do need to provide certain things, we have a duty of care," he explained.
"Now we have a policy that when it's 25 degrees or higher they are on duty, that was adopted some time in the past.
"We know from observations in the past that we would well and truly have 100 patrons in the water on a warm day. The feedback we have got that on 25 degree days we have had very few people there at times."
Cr Banning moved that a higher intervention temperature of 28 degrees be introduced to save money on the cooler days when smaller numbers of people used the lake.
Cr Craig McGuire suggested going even higher to 30 degrees, and after a short debate councillors agreed with a majority vote.
On the issue of the Lucindale pool, which last year did not have lifeguards funded by the council because of a lack of availability, Cr Banning said he knew of at least one community member prepared to do the training needed to be the main lifeguard.
Some councillors questioned if the low number of users at the pool warranted the council employing lifeguards there, but the majority of councillors voted in favour of providing them at Lucindale this summer.
The safety assessment at the Naracoorte lake is likely to be carried out by the life saving association before the scheduled start of the swimming season on December 1.
It is expected to cost about $1000 and the council will use its findings to determine the future management direction of the lake.