18 Jan 2024

Police investigating after man abuses Mount Maunganui lifeguards

12:48 pm on 18 January 2024
A surf rescue boat sitting on the beach.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Members of the public have intervened after claims a man forcefully grabbed and verbally abused two lifeguards in Mount Maunganui.

Police said inquiries were being made into the alleged Wednesday incident, where Surf Life Saving New Zealand said the man brought a female lifeguard to tears when he hurled "foul language" at her before he grabbed her colleague.

SLSNZ said it started when the man tried to get the female lifeguard's attention from the beach while she was on duty at Tay Street.

"The surf lifeguard scanned the water, figuring that he may have been referring to another swimmer, but she could not spot anyone who appeared to be in difficulty," SLSNZ said.

It said the man became agitated, pointing to a woman who appeared to the lifeguard to be "floating happily on their back behind the breakers and between the flagged area".

The lifeguard had been monitoring this person but decided to take a rescue board out to her for a welfare check.

"As she ran past the man in the shallows," SLSNZ said, "the man began verbally abusing her".

The woman in the water accepted an offer to be returned to shore and said she may have swum too far.

On returning to shore, the man continued the abuse and followed her to the surf lifeguard tower and proceeded to "hurl foul language" at her and bring her to tears.

At the tower, another lifeguard tried to step in to intervene.

The man then turned his attention to this surf lifeguard," SLSNZ said, "and grabbed him forcefully before passing members of the public intervened and pulled the man away."

The man and woman then left.

SLSNZ eastern region lifesaving manager Chaz Gibbons-Campbell said the lifeguards acted accordingly and "did absolutely nothing wrong".

"They were actively monitoring the flagged area, and there was no-one who appeared to be in any difficulty as the woman was showing no signs of distress or fatigue," Gibbons-Campbell said.

"Any level of abuse directed towards our surf lifeguards, whether they are paid guards or volunteers, is completely unacceptable."

Police said they had received the reports and inquiries were ongoing.

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