Coastguard North Canterbury enhances swift water rescue capability 

Kaiapoi, 16 May, 2024 - With more Cantabrians enjoying recreational river activities and the increasing frequency of extreme weather like storms and flooding in the region, Coastguard North Canterbury have expanded their swift water rescue capability with two new assets.  

‘Blackwell Rescue,’ an Extreme 47 4.7m vessel by Outback Boats, powered with a 50hp outboard jet, is the first of its kind in New Zealand for swift water and flood rescue. Enhanced with an arch by Icon Custom Boats for rollover and protection from low-hanging objects, this specialised inflatable is a significant upgrade for the Unit. 

'North Canterbury Mobile 1', a custom-modified FUSO Canter 4x4 Crew truck, is equipped with river fording capability, off-road tyres, recovery winches, and other enhancements to support swift water rescue operations. With 360° scene lighting, warning beacons, and three VHF radios installed, it ensures the self-sufficiency of volunteers in remote areas. Additionally, Starlink Roam will be installed, enabling remote operations to be conducted safely with internet connection no matter where volunteers are. 

Based in Kaiapoi, Coastguard North Canterbury are Coastguard’s only swift water team nationally, specially trained for rescues around fast-moving rivers, white water, and flooding. In 2018, after receiving numerous requests for assistance from Police, the Unit added another layer to their marine search and rescue capability – swift water rescue. Since this point, 26% of all operations the Unit has responded to are swift water-related. 

From the Rakaia River to the Hurunui and inland to the Southern Alps, the crew are often heading out in the worst conditions to bring people home safely, working closely alongside Police, Land Search and Rescue, Surf Life Saving and Fire and Emergency New Zealand. 

Coastguard North Canterbury President Kevin Bryce: “These two brand-new assets will greatly help our swift water volunteers better respond when called upon.” 

“It will also provide a massive improvement to training and futureproofing our team. All volunteers receive specialist Swift Water training, which sees them focusing on the use of unique equipment, rope rescue techniques, planning, hazard recognition and the ability to read and understand swift water.” 

Two notable rescues stand out for Coastguard North Canterbury’s swift water team. The first involved saving eight people and two dogs from the Waimakariri River during a flash flood, earning volunteers the 2018 Rescue of the Year award. In another instance, during the 2021 Canterbury floods, heavy rainfall led to multiple emergency calls, including one where a farmer was stranded in a tree above a rapidly rising creek. A daring helicopter rescue ensued, with the victim was airlifted to volunteers, where they could safely transfer them to an awaiting ambulance. 

Coastguard Tautiaki Moana Regional Manager South Rob Creasy: “This vessel represents a substantial levelling up in all aspects of North Canterbury’s swift water operations. The inflatable hull combined with the outboard jet engine increases the capability of the boat which makes it able to operate in very shallow water and swift water common to so many waterways in the Canterbury region,” he said. 

“The greater boat capability is supported by greater mobility with the Fuso Canter 4x4 truck, which can now access, launch, and incident manage areas most vehicles are unable to get to. The North Canterbury volunteers have invested considerable time, effort, and experience to build their swift water operations capability to utilise these new resources to their full potential. It’s a credit to all the volunteers involved in this project from its inception in 2022 up to today.” 

The incredible support from Coastguard Tautiaki Moana, the Lion Foundation, the Aotearoa Gaming Trust, and the Kiwi Gaming Foundation, alongside the Kaiapoi Tuahiwi, Woodend Sefton, Rangiora Sefton, and Oxford Ohoka Community Boards, as well as funding from Coastguard North Canterbury and its private donors have all contributed to the arrival of Blackwell Rescue and North Canterbury Mobile 1. 


For more information, contact:
Ben Parsons
Coastguard Tautiaki Moana
Senior Communications Advisor [email protected]

Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity