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Coastguard Signals For Help

The Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation is sending out a Mayday call for more volunteers.

The Federation is to mark New Zealand Coastguard Day, on Sunday (October 15th ), with an appeal for “active volunteers” to join its 67 affiliated organisations throughout the country.

“There’s a clear need for extra crew members at the sharp end, operating our search and rescue vessels. And we also require more helpers working on dry land, providing crews with vital administrative or communications back-up or ensuring rescue craft are maintained at peak condition,” says the Federation' Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Rangi.

“Running a 24 hour-a-day service is a huge challenge for an almost wholly voluntary organisation such as Coastguard. We are an island nation with long coastlines and often unpredictable weather and sea conditions. At the same time, New Zealanders have a love affair with the sea and with our lakes and rivers, with at least 1.5 million of us spending some time on a boat at least once a year.

“Despite the huge demand these factors place on Coastguard’s resources, we currently have only 2,500 volunteers providing emergency search and rescue services, a non-emergency breakdown service and an extensive programme of education courses on safe boating. It would be marvellous if more willing hands were available to share this vital work,” he says.

According to Mr Rangi, Coastguard is particularly keen to recruit younger people for its search and rescue crews, as they tend to possess the strength and stamina needed for long hauls on the water in difficult conditions.

“Currently, a large percentage of our volunteers are retired people. They’re doing a fantastic job and we’d like to have more of them. But we would certainly favour having more young people on our boats, with the older age group playing a larger supporting role. And, as younger people tend to have work commitments, employers could perform a valuable service by ensuring Coastguard volunteers on their staff can be available for rostering when required.

“But although our search and rescue crews need to be fit and healthy, we’re not looking for Superman or Wonder Woman. We’re seeking ordinary, sensible New Zealanders who want to make a positive and personally rewarding contribution to the community. And its not necessary to be an experienced boatie either, as Coastguard provides the specialist training that’s required,” he says.

“Many of our volunteers bring specific and highly relevant skills with them. They include a number of doctors and para-medics who help crew some of our search and rescue vessels. Similarly, our on-shore volunteers include people with computer skills, who play a vital role in ensuring good communications. We could do with more such volunteers, as well as with large numbers of others who just bring a willingness to learn and to put time and effort into the job,” Mr Rangi adds.

With 50 specialised rescue craft, over 300 privately-owned boats and a network of search aircraft at its disposal, Coastguard helped over 6,000 people in trouble on the water during the twelve months to June this year, bringing assistance to vessels worth a total of over $75 million.

“All of this has been achieved, despite the fact that Coastguard receives no government funding whatsoever. We’ve been fortunate in recent years to enjoy generous support from the Lotteries Grants Board, which is currently meeting approximately half of our search and rescue costs. But we are otherwise largely dependent on donation income,” says Kevin Rangi, adding that the Federation last month introduced a subscription-based breakdown-assist service which now provides an additional funding stream.

Amongst the benefits of becoming a Coastguard volunteer, Mr Rangi cites the satisfaction gained by those performing an important and sometimes life-saving role, the bonds of friendship established with fellow volunteers and the opportunities to learn and develop interesting and useful skills.

“Although our people are volunteers, they are trained to a fully professional standard. Many of the skills they acquire, particularly on the water, are transferable to other areas, such as the shipping or commercial fishing industries. Eventually, we hope to have NZQA recognition of our qualifications,” he says.

“There is a pressing need for extra volunteers throughout New Zealand. But this need is inevitably at its most acute in areas with low population density. It’s important for us to continue providing a service along all of our country’s coastlines, as a human life is just as valuable, whether it’s in jeopardy on the Hauraki Gulf or on the lonely waters of the Foveaux Strait,” Mr Rangi adds.

Those wishing to take up the challenge of becoming a Coastguard volunteer, can either get in touch with their local Coastguard unit or visit the Federation’s website (www.nzcoastguard.org.nz).


For further information, please contact:
Kevin Rangi
Chief Executive Officer
The Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation (Inc.)
Phone: 09 489 1510, Fax: 09 489 1506,
Mobile: 025 924 688 Email: kevinr@nzcoastguard.org.nz


Released by Ian Morrison of Matter of Fact Communications, Phone: 09 575 3223, Fax: 09 575 3220, Email: matfact@ww.co.nz


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