The regional manager for Surf Life Saving NSW says surf clubs need to plan for future population growth, aging infrastructure and the continuing upskilling of members.
Tony O’Mara was appointed to the new role about three months ago.
Housed in the Central Road complex in Port Macquarie, Mr O’Mara is responsible for the area north to Coffs Harbour and south of the Manning district.
With a background in the hospitality and sports industries, he was the corporate sales manager for Sydney Cricket Ground Trust before taking on the role of regional development for Racing Victoria.
“We returned to the Central Coast where I got involved in surf life saving,” he said.
Mr O’Mara agreed his was a ‘developing role’ but working with all levels of government and looking at long-term strategies revolving around population growth would take up much of his time.
“I’m currently working through our long term strategy which will take up the next six months and looking at opportunities for surf life saving,” he said.
“While I want clubs to continue their traditional role, I will look at the recently-released regional devleopment plan and how surf life saving as an organisation fits into those plans, how we can partner with councils and government to get outcomes for our communities.
“Looking at the plan, the growth forecasts for the Mid-North Coast are phenomenal. As surf life saving, we need to ask what resources does surf life saving need when you put another 10,000 people into a community.
“And also, what opportunities that also creates.”
The regional manager said surf life saving was broadening its business platforms above the traditional courses being offered to club members.
“As a registered training organisation we will look to expand our opportunities and to create long-term business models.
“We can do this by matching the needs of the community with what we can offer through surf life saving. We can provide employment opportunities and we can provide career paths.”
Business opportunities would need to overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’, he said.
“As well, some of our smaller clubs have to cope with aging demographics which puts pressure on patrolling members. Some clubs, such as Camden Haven, have overcome that burden by accepting assistance from out of town patrols.
“So there are ways of working smarter in that regard.”
Mr O’Mara said another challenge was that the region was very much a holiday destination so patrolling members needed to maintain and continue to upgrade their skill set to meet those expectations of holidaymakers.
He said surf life saving would also continue to build a portfolio of opportunities in offering training courses to business and to the broader public.
He would also support clubs in securing funding as a way of creating funding streams to future-proof them against aging infrastructure.
With the ebbs and flows of club membership inherent in every club, Mr O’Mara said all clubs should be proud of their performance and efforts in keeping beaches safe.