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Opening of the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ

Opening of the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand

It is with great pleasure that I am here today to officially open the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

This is a significant occasion. New Zealand now has a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year search and rescue coordination centre for the first time.

It is the culmination of many months of hard work by the MSA and CAA who have been working together to establish the Centre since November last year. As I'm sure everyone here knows, the sinking of the recreational fishing boat Time Out near Oamaru last year with the accompanying tragic loss of lives, was the catalyst for a Ministerial review of our national search and rescue coordination arrangements.

That review identified very clearly the need for a rescue coordination centre that operates around the clock, every day of the year.

Today's opening not only makes that centre a reality, it also serves as a reminder of the search and rescue capabilities New Zealand's geographical isolation requires.

Although we are a small country, we are surrounded by a vast body of water and have weather so changeable that it can catch out even the most experienced sailors.

The search and rescue area covered by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand is more than twelve million square miles.

This is one of the largest search and rescue areas in the world, stretching from mid-Tasman to halfway to Chile, from Antarctica to halfway to Noumea, and extending out to include the Cook Islands.

This area covers the 5,400 nautical miles of New Zealand's long and jagged coastline with its many bays, inlets and islands. It also covers inland New Zealand where aviation searches and searches stemming from the activation of an emergency beacon require prompt responses.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand is responsible for coordinating all major aviation and maritime search and rescue missions within this vast area. It is a task than can require the coordination of national and international civil and military resources.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand also provides support and advice to the New Zealand Police during Class II search and rescue incidents. Class II search and rescue missions are coordinated by the Police who are supported, if necessary, by other organisations such as the Coastguard.

The Centre's activities aren't just confined to its coordination role. The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand is working with search and rescue providers around New Zealand to improve the integration of search and rescue delivery. This process includes the facilitation of common practices, equipment, training, response criteria, call-out procedures, and performance standards.

In conjunction with this work, the Centre will pull together valuable national search and rescue resources to boost the overall efficiency of the Search and Rescue (SAR) network and greatly enhance the national SAR capability.

Our new Centre provides New Zealanders with a highly professional rescue operation, well-trained and competent staff, and excellent equipment and systems.

The RCCNZ is co-located here, at Avalon, with the MSA Maritime Operations Centre, which provides radio coverage of the country's coastline and out at sea. By working closely together, these two facilities ensure a quick and efficient search and rescue response.

For seven days a week, 24 hours a day, two search and rescue officers are on duty at the Rescue Coordination Centre. One officer assumes the search and rescue mission coordinator role, and more staff are brought into the centre if required, including Police and the Defence Force personnel.

For the moment, the MSA manages the RCCNZ under a Memorandum of Understanding with the CAA. That arrangement will in due course be overtaken by legislative changes that allow responsibility for Class III search and rescue coordination to be given directly to the MSA. The Transport Legislation Bill, containing these provisions, was approved for introduction by Cabinet today.

In conclusion I would like to congratulate the MSA and CAA for the significant amount of work that has gone into establishing this Centre - a Centre that provides New Zealanders with a world-class search and rescue service.

It is reassuring to know that we have a highly trained and professional maritime and aviation search and rescue organisation that is ready to swing into action whenever an emergency occurs.

ENDS

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