Wollongong and Shellharbour councils say lack of staff and consistency are why lifeguards were not out at more beaches as the Illawarra sweltered through an unusually hot September weekend.
The weekend brought record-breaking temperatures that saw the mercury peak above 33 degrees in Wollongong but North Wollongong Beach was the only patrolled beach in the region.
Wollongong City Council acting general manager Kerry Hunt said the council was still operating on winter lifeguard staffing levels.
"To fast-track the opening of our beaches was not an option as the level of staffing required to do so is not in place, yet, and it could potentially cause confusion if we were to only open selected beaches, which could encourage swimmers to take unnecessary risks at other locations if they assumed they had additional patrols," Ms Hunt said.
"Longer-term, climate change predicts that such weather patterns will continue to be a trend.
"It's something council is mindful of as a potential need in the future.''
The patrol season starts this Saturday, September 23, coinciding with the start of the school holidays.
This week an extra 131 seasonal lifeguards will join Wollongong's permanent lifeguards, with more staff due to join ahead of the peak season in December and January.
A Shellharbour City Council spokesperson said the council had aligned its lifeguard services with the start of the Surf Life Saving NSW season "to ensure consistency along the coast".
The spokesperson said the council had planned its resources around the start date of Saturday, September 23.
"Council's statistics on beach goers in September, October and early December show less than a quarter of the number of daily swimmers than that experienced in summer," the Shellharbour spokesperson said.
Kiama Municipal Council was unable to respond to the Mercury's questions before publication, but patrols at Surf Beach are also due to begin with the start of the school holidays, with Jones and Werri beaches to be patrolled on weekends; more patrols will begin in mid-December.
Meanwhile, "critical shortages" of volunteers were why Surf Life Saving clubs couldn't put on patrols early.
A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said the Berkeley, Western Suburbs, Port Kembla, Thirroul and Helensburgh pools, all seasonal, were still undergoing maintenance ahead of their opening on Saturday, September 23.
The 50-metre pool at Dapto Pool is being cleaned, while the council is working to fix a broken pipe at Corrimal Pool so its 25-metre and toddler pools can reopen for the swim season (the 50-metre pool remains open year-round).
Beverley Whitfield Pool reopened on Friday, September 15 after its maintenance period and Oak Flats Pool remains open.
The council spokesperson said Albion Park and Warilla pools were still undergoing maintenance and would reopen on the advertised date of October 30.
"The operating periods for council's pools aligns with demand and patronage, particularly with the numbers utilising Oak Flats and Beverley Whitfield pools showing both facilities still have plenty of available capacity over winter and spring," the spokesperson said.
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