the Waimarama Surf Lifesaving Club is a community of around 350 salty sea lovers. Throughout summer the club operates surf patrols at the beach on Saturdays and Sundays as well as training young and not-so-young surf lovers in skills from surf swimming to lifesaving and resuscitation. This summer they have more than ever to look forward to as their new watchtower is set to open after a major combined fundraising and building effort.

Local engineer and club member Mike Finlayson has project managed the build. He says the new tower has been in the pipeline for two years and was needed because the old one was around forty years old and starting to deteriorate. It was also sitting too close to the sea (on the berm) and the concrete armouring installed some years ago to protect the foundations was contributing to erosion on the beach. So, down with the old and up with the new.

The new watchtower will open in November and has been designed to stand for forty to fifty years and to adapt as technologies and techniques for lifesaving develop over time.

Mike Finlayson says getting Napier architects PMA alongside Hastings’ LHT engineering and Havelock North-based RDCL geotechnical engineers meant the team could “do it once and get it right.”

The specialist team was able to work together to create a concept that surpasses typical wooden watchtower styles, instead using concrete, and presenting a bold, unique design. One of the requirements of the Hastings District Council was that the tower sit behind the sea wall, rather than on it as the old tower had. The striking cantilevered design, with the cabin sitting four metres over the sea wall means the sea wall can be maintained and repaired over time without disrupting the tower’s foundations.

Lattey Civil Construction took on the foundations and precast concrete, DSK Engineering did the steelwork and the cabin is being built and fitted out by Mackersey’s, so the project, Mike says, has ended up being a “Showcase of the leaders in building in Hawke’s Bay.”

The inspiration for the design was drawn from a breaking wave, with the screen at the rear of the tower creating the barrel or tube of the wave. The vertical timber slats, which will weather to grey over time represent the “feathering foam of the falling water” and the main structural elements are natural precast concrete, fitting in with the greys of the sand and stones on the foreshore. Even the glass echoes the sea – the light green representing the inshore colour of the ocean. The cabin’s observation deck is built from natural timber, which will quickly turn grey, like driftwood.

The $350,000 cost of the project has been a combined effort with massive community support. After base funding  from the council, the project was awarded grants from community trusts and then generously topped up by passionate local families and individuals.

Smooth sailing

Hawke’s Bay’s proud tradition of watersports doesn’t stop at the breakers. This year the Napier Sailing Club is celebrating 125 years in operation.

Club members race each Saturday in the area out from Hardinge Road and the club membership currently sits at around 880, including the powerboat contingent. Usually around 50 to 60 sailboats are on the water on Saturday afternoons, a number Commodore Paul Redman says has been higher in the past, and he’d like to see it rise again.

He’s proud of the fact that the NSC is known around the country as a great hosting club for racing, thanks to the excellent team of officials and Napier’s wide, open bay with good winds.

This summer the NSC will host a couple of major regattas on top of their regular events – the 21st Flying Fifteen World Championship and the NZ National Championship in February and March 2017. They’re expecting around 60 entries for that event from all around the world.

At Easter the club will host the NZ National Optimist Event, a regatta that will draw more than 200 boats out onto the water.

On top of the 125th anniversary coup, the Napier Sailing Club is celebrating the international success of one of their own – in October Skipper Olivia Mackay and Micah Wilkinson from Te Awamutu’s Ngaroto Sailing Club won the Red Bull Foiling Generation World Final in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Napier Sailing Club welcomes new members and holds ‘learn to sail’ classes throughout the year for kids and novices of all ages. The club is also always in need of volunteers to man their rescue boats and help with events.

Visit to find out more about how to get out on the water this summer.

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