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Round the clock staffing search & rescue centres

New funding enables round the clock staffing at search and rescue centre

The National Rescue Co-ordination Centre (NRCC) will be staffed 24 hours a day 7 days a week as a result of new funding announced today by the Transport Minister Paul Swain.

The funding has been approved by Cabinet as a result of the independent review of the search and rescue (SAR) response to the boating accident off the Oamaru coast on 11 May 2003.

The Search and Rescue Council announced in August it would implement all recommendations made by the reviewer John Bowdler. (see www.nzsar.org.nz)

The recommendations included funding to enable the Centre to provide a full-time, 24-hour, 7-day a week service, co-located with the existing full-time Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) operated by the Maritime Safety Authority.

This includes transitional costs of $806,000, and increased annual operating costs of $1,255,000.

It will take the total annual operating budget to approximately $3 million.

The Transport Minister Paul Swain says “The extra funding will significantly enhance the NRCC's search and rescue response."

"Two people will be on duty at all times, ensuring the system is mobilised immediately and there is prompt communication with rescuers in the field – a need highlighted in recent coroners reports as well as the Oamaru independent review."

"In addition, co-locating the service with the Maritime Operations Centre will provide a supportive team environment at times of high activity.”

Mr Swain says it is imperative that the NRCC performs its Class III SAR functions effectively and without interruption.

Class III search and rescue operations are those specifically associated with an activated distress beacon, and any incident that involves a missing or distressed aircraft, or any SAR operation requiring coordination with the military or with other neighbouring countries within the region. “Planning for the physical co-location of the NRCC with the MOC is well underway and will be completed early in 2004, with the full transition to a 24-hour, 7-day a week facility by July 2004."

Current arrangements will continue till the centre becomes a full 24/7 operation.

These were outlined by Mr Swain in August when he released the government response to the Bowdler report.

"If a search and rescue mission coordinator is alerted to a confirmed distress signal, they will immediately activate the NRCC, thus ensuring all appropriate resources are available to assist."

The co-located NRCC and MOC will be renamed the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand, and will be based at the Avalon TV Studios in Lower Hutt.

Initially both the Civil Aviation Authority and the Maritime Safety Authority will manage the Centre, but legislation is planned to rationalise these management arrangements next year.
Every effort will be made to preserve the current, small resource base of skilled personnel while the recruitment and training of further staff is carried out.

Mr Swain says the capability of the current operational services will be maintained throughout the transitional arrangements.

BACKGROUND NOTE FOR MEDIA REGARDING BOWDLER REVIEW:

The SAR Council has been instrumental in carrying out the recommendations from the Bowdler review. The first 10 recommendations consisted of immediate remedial actions and were completed within 6 weeks by a working party drawn from key search and rescue agencies. Recommendations 13, 14 and 15 addressed issues of institutional reform and in response, the SAR Council completed a comprehensive risk analysis of current NRCC arrangements. This work provided the key recommendations about co-locating the Rescue Co-ordination Centre with the Maritime Operations Centre as well as upgrading the facility to a 24/7 service. The remaining recommendations from the Bowdler review are key strategic objectives of the new national search and rescue strategic plan currently being developed by the SAR Council in consultation with all organisations in the sector.

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