Celebrating our volunteers for National Volunteer Week: Peter Boyd, Ngati Porou Surf Life Saving Club founder
Whiria te tangata/weaving the people together – the theme of Volunteer Week 2019, perfectly describes the strength
underlying lifeguard Peter Boyd’s work building a new surf lifesaving club for his isolated East Coast community,
founded on kaupapa from Ngati Porou and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
Peter is the founder and club coordinator of the country’s newest Surf Life Saving Club, the Ngati Porou SLSC, which
patrols the remote Onepoto Beach in Hicks Bay, the northernmost beach on the East Coast.
Peter became a volunteer lifeguard at Wainui SLSC in Gisborne, and loved it.
“My family were surfers, and were always in the ocean, so I was asked to be a lifeguard when I was 17, in 1984,” he
In his 26 years with Wainui SLSC he carried out regular patrols, became part of its governance committee, and
represented the club in surf lifesaving sports.
He also took part in the nationwide resurgence in waka ama, and realised his East Coast community needed lifeguard
services to keep them safe doing waka ama, collecting kai moana, fishing and swimming.
“I could see in [Surf Life Saving NZ], the water safety message and the skills we needed in our community were already
Now, the club’s members patrol during summer, and train year-round in water safety, rescue techniques, first aid,
leadership and team work, as well as running a Nippers programme for children.
The club provides opportunities for young people to gain leadership experience and valuable skills. And they have formed
a partnership with the local kura kaupapa, whose teachers are becoming lifeguards, and teach lifeguard skills through
the club as part of the school curriculum.
“One of the ancestors Ngati Porou came from is Paikea, the whale rider, he was an expert in the sea and he had to make
sure he was safe in the sea. You could say he was the original East Coast lifeguard.”
The decision to call the club Ngati Porou Surf Life Saving Club, rather than Onepoto SLSC (as is convention), was an
“The reason for calling it Ngati Porou Surf Life Saving was it wasn’t a name isolating us to Onepoto Beach, rather it
opened us up to within the whole Ngati Porou area, it was a cultural and strategic move.
“The club is open to everyone, and serves everyone, and this opens the door to those descended from Ngati Porou.”
The club has been founded from the beginning with the intention to come towards surf lifesaving from a cultural
perspective, he says.
“It’s taken a little while for the idea of lifeguarding to catch on in our iwi – because the idea is seen as a
mainstream Pakeha thing.
“But I say it is us. Because of our ocean culture. We’re not just people of the land, we’re people of the sea, and
respect for the sea and lifeguarding and safety are who we are.
“It’s culturally more inviting - we can draw down on our cultural connections for Ngati Porou - we have a thousand year
history with the ocean.”
Peter says the surf lifesaving movement’s mission to serve the community melds strongly with traditional Maori ideas
about serving the community.
“We have a saying – we say ‘we have the whanau, hapu, iwi – it’s always about the collective’.
“We’ve qualified 18 new guards this season. And I’m seeing our young people that we trained win awards and grow, and
seeing people enjoying the ocean as a way of life.”
Ngati Porou SLSC now has over 25 members, from 14 to 66 years old, and helps patrol nearly 200 kilometres of East
Coast/Tairawhiti coastline, working closely with neighbouring clubs in the district, Gisborne and Tolaga Bay.
During summer there is an influx of visitors to the beaches, who swim, surf and enjoy boating, but often aren’t familiar
with local conditions – a big challenge for a small surf lifesaving club.
Last summer Peter and his nephews pulled four festival-goers out of a rip, and a nephew used a surfboard to rescue
another who was drowning.
Peter is heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the club, and carrying out patrols. Right now he is gearing up
for the winter training season, including an IRB training camp for the district, that the club is able to participate in
thanks to the donation of a new IRB (inflatable rescue boat) from BP, in April.
“It feels great to know the skills you have, have been able to save people’s lives. You feel proud.
“It’s a wonderful thing, knowing that those skills are going into the community.”