Coastguard Taranaki celebrates 50 years of saving lives at sea

Raise your bat, Coastguard Taranaki! This King’s Birthday, Coastguard Taranaki volunteers, supporters and community partners are coming together to celebrate the Unit’s 50th anniversary of saving lives at sea. 

Coastguard Taranaki has a packed long weekend of celebrations, starting with a fundraising dinner on Saturday night with supporters and fellow search and rescue partners. On Sunday afternoon, the Unit welcomes the community down to the Sea Rescue Centre on Ocean View Parade for a family-friendly event where the public can take a tour of our Coastguard base, meet the local crew, win a ride on Todd Energy Rescue and see displays from our friends at Coastguard South Taranaki, Surf Lifesaving, Rescue Helicopter and Port Taranaki. More details here: Coastguard Taranaki 50th Anniversary Open Day! | Facebook 

50 years of community service 

Coastguard Taranaki was established in 1972-73, initially providing a marine radio service to vessels in the area. Over time, the Unit expanded to offer search and rescue services using volunteer personnel and vessels from the New Plymouth Yacht Club. In 1986, it became the Taranaki Volunteer Coast Guard Service Inc. and a member of the Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation. The Unit received funding, improved its radio service, and offered boating education courses.

In 1999, volunteers were excited to welcome its first rescue vessel – Westgate Rescue.

Westgate Rescue was a Waveney class lifeboat that was purchased by Taranaki Volunteer Coastguard in 1999 from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) with the help of the New Zealand Coastguard and local business and community sponsors. The vessel was named after the local port authority that supported its purchase and maintenance and served as a back-up pilot boat in addition to its search and rescue duties. After 12 years of service, Westgate Rescue was sold to private ownership in Picton in 2011. 

That year, Taranaki Volunteer Coastguard signed a contract with AMF Boats to build a replacement vessel named Todd Energy Rescue, which is an AMF 1170 Quick Response Vessel.

Todd Energy Rescue was commissioned on November 3, 2012, and has been in service ever since, providing a safe and reliable rescue service to the community. Although the vessel has served the Coastguard Unit well and has many more years of service, it will soon require a mid-life refurbishment to ensure its continued safety and reliability. 

In 2018, Coastguard Taranaki proudly became a full member of Coastguard New Zealand, and the local radio operations were integrated with the national Coastguard radio operations for 24/7 coverage. 

Since 2015, Coastguard Taranaki has responded to 202 incidents, helping more than 450 people get home safely. This includes around 50 urgent incidents where Coastguard volunteers have played a pivotal role in saving people’s lives. 

Eight rescued in waka capsize 

A notable example is from several years ago when Todd Energy Rescue had gone out for a regular training session on a beautiful day. The crew included three trainees, two operational crew, and Lynn Fitzsimons as the skipper. They had spent a couple of hours going through basic helming, search patterns, rope work, and other skills when they received a distress call about an overturned waka. 

The team immediately switched to rescue mode. They approached the overturned waka and found that the situation was worse than expected. There were eight people in the water, and they were clinging to broken pieces of the waka that were right on the reef. 

Rescuing the survivors was a difficult operation that required considerable skill. The only way to bring them on board was over the transom, which meant that Todd Energy's jet units had to be out of gear, and the boat had to be right on the surf line with very little water. Backing the boat up to those in distress was no easy feat. The crew had to wait for breaks in the swell, which threatened to ground Todd Energy Rescue. One by one, seven people were pulled from the water, but the eighth proved more challenging. 

He had become very distressed and was panicking, fighting those trying to haul him in over the stern. Finally, he was hauled aboard, and Todd Energy Rescue raced to port where emergency services attended to the crew of the waka. The job was not yet done for Todd Energy as they headed back to the reef to retrieve the wreckage and bring it back to port. 

It was a reminder that, even on the best day, the day nobody expects it, that’s when Coastguard will be there, ready to save lives. 

Coastguard New Zealand congratulates Coastguard Taranaki on its 50 years of hard volunteer mahi – ensuring Kiwis continue to be safe along the beautiful west coast of the North Island. 


For more information, contact: 
Ben Parsons 
Coastguard New Zealand 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