There has been a growing shortage of lifeguards since before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is impacting pools and beaches nationwide and overseas. In addition to full-time vacancies needing to be filled, there are also gaps created through Omicron and general sickness which need to be covered on a regular basis.
Recently, the vacant positions have been filled with some lifeguards working extra hours, changing times and locations of shifts, upskilling of other staff, and reducing service levels in other areas, but with 12 unfilled positions out of 48 full-time roles, the difficult decision to temporarily close Tawa Pool to the general public has been made until we have reached a more sustainable lifeguard staffing level. Provisionally reopening will be October, but the decision is dependent on staffing numbers and will be reviewed closer to the time.
Our pool network across Wellington City can't operate without our frontline lifeguards, as they play a key role in helping people in our communities get the most out of our venues and have a safe, enjoyable experience, says Recreation Facilities Manager, Mathew Bialy.
“This isn’t just a local or specifically a lifeguard issue, there is a major shortage of labour all around the world due to a number of factors including the impacts of COVID, immigration, OEs, and anecdotally young potential staff are interested in work with more flexibility, more pay, and less stress.
“Being a lifeguard is a great job to consider as the skills learnt are transferable to general life including learning the value of team-work, improved communication skills and fitness, increased responsibility, and the importance of giving to the community. It’s also a job accessible to all demographics and backgrounds, the main criteria is you just need to be able to swim!”
Plans are already in place to attract more lifeguards to fill the vacant roles, including a recruitment strategy, better remuneration, and a roster review as we work towards going back to normal hours/service level provision around October.
Council’s criteria for applicants is to be 16 years and over, a confident swimmer, and have availability to work weekends. On the job training and first aid certification course is provided, and there is a new starting salary for full-time lifeguards of $51,633.
After reviewing several options, the preferred recourse was to reduce hours at Tawa Pool from this weekend and through the school holidays, then temporarily close to the general public from Monday 25 July – but school lessons, learn to swim and the Tawa Swim Club can continue to operate.
Key factors behind choosing to close Tawa include:
- It has the largest number of vacancies, with 6 of the 9 full-time roles unfilled.
- The site has the lowest general public use of all of Council’s full year pools.
- It has the closest proximity to other pools in the region (Keith Spry Pool 8.6km / 10 mins and Te Rauparaha Aquatic Centre 5.3km / 9 mins) providing alternative options for users.
- Closing Tawa Pool to casual swimmers ensures that 60% of users will still have access to the facility as school lessons, learn to swim and the Tawa Swim Club can continue to operate.
- Closing a single facility provides the least disruptive approach to both the wider community and to already stretched staff compared to a rolling closure approach.
Reduced hours at Tawa Pool:
- This weekend (9 & 10 July) – 8am-3.30pm
- Holidays (11-24 July) – 9.30am-5pm
- Term 3 (Mon 25 July until further notice) – No general public
There could still be reactive closures at Tawa Pool during the holidays, and we are already having some disruption to other services across our facilities due to the challenges around staff numbers and rostering.
Keep an eye on Wellington Community Pools Facebook page for the latest updates across all our facilities.
Anyone interested in more information, criteria and how to apply to be a lifeguard can visit our careers at Council jobs page.