When you’re out on the water and something goes wrong – your motor breaks down, you run out of fuel, or someone has fallen overboard – there’s one organisation who you rely on to respond: Coastguard.
From logging trip reports to full-scale emergency search and rescue operations, Coastguard volunteers are like guardian angels who keep the sea and our lakes safe for us all.
Last year the organisation’s Eastern Region (which includes the Bay of Plenty) responded to 292 emergency and non-urgent call-outs, and logged 30,302 trip reports to help keep track of boaties and monitor their expected route and time of return.
Eastern Region Manager Sunny Peeters says there are over 284 ‘wet crew’ and dozens of radio operators plus other ancillary volunteers in roles such as administration, finance and compliance who all volunteer their time to fulfil Coastguard’s mission of saving lives at sea.
While enthusiasm has always been high, Sunny says the commitment that’s required to maintain the high standard of training and skills nowadays does make it more difficult to retain volunteers.
“The job is at times risky. So there’s a particular set of skills required to provide the service to make sure both the public and our volunteers remain safe.”
New Zealand’s health and safety laws, along with the Maritime Transport Act, means Coastguard volunteers must undergo rigorous training. “We teach them everything they need to know about navigating, radar use, helming a vessel and how to keep themselves and others alive in the water,” Sunny explains.
“The police and Rescue Coordination Centre NZ also need to know we have the capacity to get the required expertise and equipment to the people who need it. We need to deliver the service and do it safely for everyone concerned so that’s why training is such an important part.”
BayTrust has granted Coastguard Eastern Region $167,430 this year to help pay for the training, resources and safety equipment required at nine of its units including Waihi Beach, Tauranga, Maketu, Whakatane, Opotiki, Rotorua Lakes, Lake Taupo, Turangi and the Coastguard Eastern Region Communications Unit.
It will also help pay for fuel and maintenance of Coastguard’s IRBs, jet skis and larger rescue vessels which are used in the region.
Sunny says the money will provide a better level of service and reliable cover across Coastguard’s Bay of Plenty-based units.
“If a person is in trouble on the water, whether they’re near a big city or in a small town, they still need the exact same level of service. This grant assists us to make sure that level of service is consistent throughout our region.”
Sunny says Coastguard is extremely grateful to have BayTrust’s support and is keen to increase its capability to serve the community in other ways such as partnering with regional council to make their resources available in other urgent scenarios in future.
“We count ourselves very fortunate. This grant helps because other people who are considering whether to donate or financially contribute see us as a viable proposition because BayTrust has taken the lead and backed us.”