Spotlight on Auckland Air Patrol, Coastguard's eyes in the sky.
Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol is one of two Coastguard aerial units. Made up of 30 dedicated volunteers, this crew provides vital airborne search and rescue assistance to Coastguard’s on-water crews in the greater Auckland area.
Most of the unit’s search and patrol activity takes place within a 65 nautical mile radius of the unit’s Ardmore Airfield base, but sometimes the unit is specifically tasked to go further afield.
Auckland Air Patrol’s guidance from above adds an extra layer of efficiency to Coastguard’s response. Air Patrol has the capability to search large areas in short amounts of time, vitally assisting on-water crews in time-sensitive rescues.
Earlier in 2020, Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol played an essential role in rescuing a family on the Firth of Thames.
Air Patrol volunteers Andrew Lindsay, Alex Taylor and Banu Pashutanizadeh responded to a call to search for a family of three who had entered the water after their kayak capsized just off Kaiaua.
Air Patrol’s role involved scanning the area and providing an aerial view of the zone of operation by conducting search patterns.
After conducting an initial shoreline search of the area, the crew extended their search offshore, where they spotted the overturned kayak and the family huddled together in the water. The Air Patrol team immediately threw down sea dye in the water to mark the target and called it in to Maraetai Rescue who made their way to the location and retrieved the family from the water.
This year, the Air Patrol responded to 53 incidents, which equated to saving 70 people and flying over 156 hours in search and rescue missions alone.
While the volunteers in the air may not be the ones physically pulling people out of the water, their guidance from above and overall contribution to search and rescue is immense.
"This incident will forever be engraved in my mind... It reignited my passion to continue helping and training others and reminded me of why I love volunteering."
Air Patrol is able to search large areas in short amounts of time, vitally assisting on-water crews when time is precious.
Inspiring the youth of today.
Encouraging young people to get involved with Coastguard is a vital element to ensuring the longevity of the charity in years to come.
In 2019, Coastguard Whitianga created the Alan Jackson Memorial Cadetship with the aim of fostering the next generation of boaties by teaching safe boating theory and practical skills.
“The cadetship plants the seed of what a future in the maritime industry could entail for the cadets, while also inspiring them to get involved and volunteer for Coastguard too,” says Jules Taylor, Coastguard Whitianga’s Administration Officer.
The cadetship spans 14 weeks and sees a group of 14-to 17-year-olds completing a range of boating courses, including Coastguard Boating Education VHF and Day Skipper theory amongst others.
In partnership with the Gateway Programme at Mercury Bay Area School, the cadets gain New Zealand Qualifications Authority credits with every course they pass.
The programme shows the cadets the vital job that Coastguard does in the community and the hard work and training that goes into saving lives at sea.
Crewed by 75 dedicated volunteers, Coastguard Wellington is a close-knit unit on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help boaties in distress around Wellington Harbour and the Cook Strait.
For the volunteers at Wellington, the unit is like a second family. It is made up of humble heroes like nurses Amy and Louisa, software developers Liz and Warwick, builder Nick, doctor Alice and audiologist Hilary – and their bonds are strengthened through teamwork on the water and quality time spent together on land.
When the volunteers aren’t helping boaties they are often training with other lifesaving organisations (like the Wellington Police Maritime Unit and the Life Flight Helicopter), supporting community events on the water, fundraising or ensuring vessels and the unit base are in tip-top shape.
Each year, the unit responds to 50 to 70 callouts, which most commonly involve helping power boats and yachts experiencing engine failure in the area.
Each year International Women's Day presents an opportunity for Coastguard to recognise the incredible wāhine on our rescue vessels, in our planes and at the end of our radios who selflessly give their time to saving lives at sea.
This year, some of Coastguard Wellington's wāhine reflected on what it means to them to volunteer for Coastguard.
Here's what they had to say...
Every Coastguard unit’s area of operation presents unique challenges that are factored into our crew’s training and rescue response.
In some areas of the country, Coastguard volunteers must focus their attention inland to New Zealand’s major lakes and rivers. Two of these areas are the Kaiapoi and Waimakariri Rivers, patrolled by Coastguard North Canterbury.
Coastguard North Canterbury is Aotearoa’s first fully trained, specialist Swift Water Rescue crew.
With this added layer of expertise, the Police and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre often call on North Canterbury’s Swift Water service in response to distress calls in the area.
Last year, Coastguard North Canterbury rescued five people from a shingle bank after their vehicle got stuck while crossing the Waimakariri River.
After days of stormy weather and heavy rain in the mountains, there was a very high chance of the area flooding.
Due to accessibility issues, the team had to partly carry their IRB to reach a safe launching area. At the site, the team skillfully maneuvered the IRB through the racing water, fighting the strong current.
Given the dangerous conditions, the decision was made to ferry the people across the river two-by-two back to safety.
The last person was safely returned to shore at 11pm – just as the storm broke with wind gusts exceeding 30 knots. The full force of the flood increased the river flow from 100 to 331 cubic metres per second.
If the people had still been on the island, they would have been swept away by the raging flood water.
Through many hours of training to better understand their local environment and what is required to help those within it, Coastguard North Canterbury has added an extra layer of expertise to the service it provide their community.
This year Coastguard Maketu and Coastguard North Canterbury were both recognised for excelling across management, unit processes, training, rescues and community engagement.
While these two units are different in many ways, it’s clear they both put people – their volunteers and their communities – at the heart of everything they do.
Community and safety are major motivators in all that Coastguard Maketu does. A perfect example of this is the installation of a 24 hours a day 7 days a week webcam on the Kaituna Bar. Coastguard Maketu worked with the Harbourmaster to provide this service, which benefits the unit and the public, because it lets boaties check the conditions, in real time, before they make the decision to cross the bar.
Coastguard Maketu is dedicated to empowering its unit members through unique training opportunities that build confidence and foster skills. The unit offers in-depth bar crossing training, encourages programmes like Youth in Emergency Services, and commonly completes search and rescue exercises (SAREX) with neighbouring Coastguard units.
Coastguard North Canterbury has come a long way from being a small unit operating between the Waimakariri and Ashley Rivers to a well-respected search and rescue organisation in the area.
The unit places a large focus on its people, helped by the implementation of a crew manager and supported by a welfare officer.
The unit continues to grow and improve its on-water response, helped by the construction of the rescue vessel Kaiapoi Rescue. The new rescue vessel continues to not only provide a fantastic opportunity for the unit to further develop and improve its response on the water, it ensures the longevity of Coastguard in North Canterbury.
Susan Lean, Coastguard Waihi Beach
Coastguard Unit Support Volunteer of the Year and Hutchwilco Coastguard Volunteer of the Year
Susan was recognised for dedicating more than 2,000 hours of her time to Coastguard Waihi Beach in 2018/19, which is a true reflection of her enthusiasm and commitment to the job. Susan is a major force in implementing new systems within the unit, using her expertise in computer programmes and software to do so. Alongside her technical prowess, Susan encourages a unit culture that is collaborative, inclusive and professional.
Susan continually puts the needs of her fellow unit members before her own. In the busy summer months, she works alongside her fellow unit members to help them do the best they can and foster a positive working environment. Susan’s keen eye for improvement, coupled with her genuine care for those she works with has seen her improve how the unit works to the benefit of all those who are part of it.
Allan Turia, Coastguard Turangi
Century Batteries Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year
Allan Turia is a well-respected member of Coastguard Turangi. Over his 17 years with Coastguard, Allan has worked across a number of projects, but it is his dedication to bringing the community and Coastguard together that truly stands out. Allan has many strong working relationships with groups in the community, including the Department of Conservation, but perhaps the most prominent is his link to the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board. Through his work with this iwi, Allan has obtained a $5,000 per annum commitment from the Board to go towards a cadetship programme that encourages those of Tūwharetoa descent to get involved with Coastguard. The iwi was also a main sponsor of the unit’s boat build project.
Geoff Eban, Coastguard Nelson
Coastguard Communications and Incident Management Volunteer of the Year
As a senior crew member and duty officer with a Search and Rescue management qualification and navigation endorsement, Geoff Eban is a highly skilled member of the Nelson unit. His wealth of knowledge on search and rescue and coordinated incident management system procedures is held in high regard, not only by Coastguard but external agencies including NZ Police and Surf Lifesaving.
His passion for teaching and sharing his expertise has been a welcome contribution within the unit, which has helped volunteers feel more confident about the decisions they make during search and rescue operations. His role in providing updated incident management team (IMT) training and extensive incident response knowledge means the unit can maintain a clear, deliberate and precise IMT. Geoff has shown himself to be an absolute asset in the short time he has been with Coastguard.
On 28 January 2019, Coastguard Opotiki held an open day to coincide with Coastguard’s Old4New van being in the area. With community engagement at the forefront, the unit organised a day where the local community could view and interact with Opotiki’s search and rescue organisations and safety services.
The open day brought Coastguard, St John Ambulance, New Zealand Police and the local Rescue Helicopter together to emphasise the importance of water safety. A large influence behind the creation of this event was a recent Water Safety New Zealand statistic showing the large number of drownings in Māori and Pasifika. Because more than 50 percent of Opotiki’s community is made up of this at-risk group, Coastguard Opotiki used its influence and resources to help change attitudes around water safety.
It was a great day for Old4New, with 300 fit-for-purpose lifejackets going home with local boaties and 175 unfit lifejackets removed from circulation.
On Sunday 6 January 2019, the Whitianga Duty Officer received a phone call about an incident involving a 24-foot yacht with two passengers on board somewhere between Cape Colville and Opito Bay.
From the initial indicated location communicated from the distressed vessel and crew, the Duty Officer worked efficiently to decipher the puzzle of locating the yacht.
Communication with the stricken vessel began at 10.36pm. The skipper’s explanation of the area, including a description of Cuvier Island’s flashing lights, roughly established the area of operation. At 11.00pm contact was made with the vessel once again, instructing the skipper to turn on all the vessel’s lighting and to have a parachute flare on standby. As NZCT Rescue approached the area, the yacht’s skipper activated the flare after spotting the rescue vessel’s strobe light. At 12.07pm NZCT Rescue reached the yacht, confirming everyone on board was safe and well.
This rescue was successful due to Coastguard Whitianga’s highly skilled volunteer Incident Management Team. Over the course of the evening they were able to locate the boat with next-to-no information on its whereabouts, highlighting the volunteers' professionalism, vast skill-set and determination to bring boaties home safely.
This rescue and Coastguard Whitianga proved how powerful teamwork and collaboration can be.