Bondi Rescue expert slams council

Sunshine Coast lifeguards on Mooloolaba Beach .
Sunshine Coast lifeguards on Mooloolaba Beach . Cade Mooney

THE former managing director of Bondi Rescue Lifeguards has joined the chorus damning the Sunshine Coast Council's decision to outsource its lifeguard operations.

John Nielsen, now the chairman of the Gold Coast surf industry taskforce, accused the council and Surf Life Saving Queensland of bullying.

He said they were assuming the 130 professional lifeguards would simply move across to the new Australian Lifeguard Service - the professional arm of surf lifesaving - from the council's service.

"They're assuming the lifeguards will change their shirts because they are desperate for a job," he said.

"That's just bullying. It's like putting a gun to their head."

He also doubted most lifeguards would be willing to make the switch by the end of October, when the council said the changeover should happen.

"The lifeguards resolved unanimously last week to put down $100 each of their own money to create a fighting fund.

"They're finding a lawyer," Mr Nielsen said.

Surf Life Saving Queensland's chief lifeguard Greg Cahill yesterday confirmed a transition team was working to implement the change by the "end of October".

Mr Nielsen feared the new service would fall back on people with less experience than those who have been protecting our beaches as a paid profession.

"Surf lifesavers - I love them - but they do not have the trade or personnel to fill the position," he said.

"This (decision) is purely about bureaucracy."

Mr Nielsen said it was also about risk assessment.

He said the council was putting the region at risk of expensive lawsuits if the new service did not offer the same quality of protection.

About a decade ago, the world vice-president of PepsiCo's wife sued Coolum and the council for $100 million after her husband drowned off Yaroomba.

She was unsuccessful, but Mr Nielsen said this left a "risk profile and lawyers love precedent".

"The Sunshine Coast Council fast-tracked this decision, haven't consulted publicly and they haven't considered the risk," he said.

Topics:  bondi rescue council lifeguards

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