30 years of lifeguard service to "make sure people are safe"

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Weaving the people together, the theme of Volunteer Week 2019, is embodied by lifeguard Peter Boyd's work building a new surf lifesaving club for his isolated East Coast community, founded on kaupapa from Ngāti Porou and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

Boyd became a volunteer lifeguard when he was just 17.

“It's all about giving back to your community, it's about volunteering your time, that's what it's about, it's about giving your time up to patrol and make sure people are safe.”

With over 30 years of service as a lifeguard, he is also the founder of the country's newest Surf Life Saving Club, Ngāti Porou SLSC.

“There are all those cultural connections around Tangaroa, our people have been so disconnected from the sea through certain things but this is just a way to reconnect to our moana culture, being iwi moana again, people of the sea.”

Ngāti Porou SLSC now has over 25 members and helps patrol nearly 200 kilometres of Tairāwhiti coastline, working closely with neighbouring clubs in the district, Gisborne and Tolaga Bay. 

“Teaching kids that it's good to volunteer your time, that's an important thing, giving your time up for your community, your hapū, your iwi... that's what it's about too, you don't have to be paid.”

The club draws on Ngāti Porou ancestor Paikea as an example of water excellence and safety.

“He's our example, he's our original lifeguard as we say in Ngāti Porou surf lifesaving because he had to know about it, whether it was his physical feats in the water- but he also knew about the tikanga and karakia and everything else around Tangaroa also.”

Boyd says that as it was with his Māori ancestors, living with the ebb and flow of the tide is a lifestyle.

“You're guided by this and I think there's the adventure, it keeps you young, it keeps you fit, it's exciting and a lot the lessons you learn from the moana you can adapt back into everyday living.”

Boyd is now working on developing the capacity of surf lifesaving within schools on the East Coast.