Coastguard Volunteers Honoured at National Awards

Coastguard volunteers from around the country were recognised for their selfless dedication to saving lives at the Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence on Saturday 19 October.

The annual ceremony celebrates Coastguard volunteers and units across seven award categories, encompassing the rescues carried out on the water and the work that goes on behind the scenes on land.

“These awards are an opportunity for us to stop and recognise the incredible and noble efforts of these very special people,” says Coastguard New Zealand President, Mike Purchase.

“The unwavering commitment of our volunteers to each other, Coastguard, and their communities is truly humbling. While they think of themselves as ordinary people, their actions are nothing short of heroic.”

Susan Lean from Coastguard Waihi Beach was one of the volunteers honoured at the ceremony. She took home two of the seven awards, including the supreme award of Hutchwilco Volunteer of the Year.

Susan was recognised for dedicating more than 2000 hours of her time to Waihi Beach in the last year, a true reflection of her enthusiasm and commitment to the job. By using her expertise in computer programmes and software, Susan is a key force in implementing new systems within the unit.

Alongside her technical prowess, Susan encourages a unit culture that is collaborative, inclusive and professional. It’s this leadership which has ensured all unit members have a voice and are part of a supportive environment.

“Susan continually puts the needs of her fellow unit members before her own,” says Mr. Purchase. “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.”

The other Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence Winners were:

Community Relations Activity of the Year – Coastguard Opotiki

On the 28th of January, 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 SAR 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. It was a great day for Old4New, with 300 fit-for-purpose lifejackets going home with local boaties and 175 unusable lifejackets removed from circulation. It was noted by the Old4New team that this was the most support the campaign had received from a Coastguard unit across all the regions.

A large influence behind the creation of this event was a recent Water Safety statistic showing the large number of drownings in Maori and Pacific Island groups. As more than 50% of Opotiki’s community is made up of this ‘at risk’ group, Coastguard Opotiki used their influence and resources to assist in changing attitudes around water safety.

Communications and Incident Management Volunteer of the Year – Geoff Eban, Coastguard Nelson

As a Senior Crew Member and Duty Officer with a SAR Management Qualification and Navigation Endorsement, Geoff 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 Police and Surf Lifesaving.

His passion for teaching and sharing his expertise has been a welcome contribution within the Nelson unit, which as a result, has helped unit members feel more confident about the decisions they make during SAR operations.

His role in providing updated IMT training and his extensive incident response knowledge means that the unit is able to maintain a clear, deliberate and precise IMT. Geoff is dedicated to the upkeep and proper execution of IMT and has shown himself to be an absolute asset in the short time he has been with Coastguard.

Century Yuasa Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year – Allan Turia, Coastguard Turangi

Allan 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 DOC, but perhaps the most prominent is his link to the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board. Through his work with this Iwi group, Allan has obtained a $5k per annum commitment from the Board to go towards a cadetship programme that encourages those of Tuwharetoa descent to get involved with Coastguard. The Iwi group was also a primary sponsor of the unit’s boat build project.

Coastguard Rescue of the Year – Coastguard Whitianga

On Sunday 6th January 2019, the Whitianga Duty Officer received a phone call about an incident involving a 24ft Farr yacht, with two passengers on board, somewhere between Cape Colville and Opito Bay.

The rescue that followed involved back and forth communication between Coastguard and the vessels Skipper, to determine the correct area of operation.

From the initial indication of the distressed vessel and crew, the Duty Officer worked efficiently to decipher the puzzle that was locating the yacht.

Communication with the stricken vessel began at 10:36pm. The Skippers explanation of the area, including a description of Cuvier Island’s flashing lights, roughly established the general area.
The Skipper was asked to point his bow directly towards the light and provide a compass bearing. This information established an area of operation. The Police were advised of the situation at hand and endorsed the Coastguard response plan, outlined by the Incident Management Team.

The skipper’s family also gave a rough outline of the vessels position found through the Apple locate App. When converted to marine position, this was consistent with the area of operation and was passed on to the CRV skipper as they headed to the area.

At 11pm contact was made with the vessel once again, instructing the skipper to turn on all of the vessels available lights and to have a parachute flare on standby.

As NZCT Rescue approached the area, the yachts skipper communicated he could see the rescue vessels strobe light. He was instructed to activate the flare. Just before midnight NZCT had a confirmed sighting of the yacht.

At 12:07am NZCT Rescue reached the yacht, confirming all persons were safe and well. By 2am the vessel was placed on mooring within the Cove and the CRV crew was on their way home.

Suzuki New Zealand Coastguard Unit of the Year – Coastguard Maketu and Coastguard North Canterbury

Coastguard Maketu and Coastguard North Canterbury have excelled across management, unit processes, training, rescues and community engagement in the past year.

While these two units are different in many ways, it’s clear that each put people – their volunteers and their communities – at the heart of everything they do. This people centric focus has contributed to exceptional growth and development, ensuring Coastguard Maketu and Coastguard North Canterbury have stability and strength that will last well into the future.

For Coastguard Maketu community and safety have been key motivators in the work they’ve completed over the past year. A perfect example of this is the installation of a 24/7 webcam on the Kaituna Bar. Coastguard Maketu worked with the Harbourmaster to provide this service which is benefitting the unit and the general public, who can access it through the unit’s website. The service allows boaties to check the conditions, 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 skill. The unit offers in-depth Bar Crossing Training, encourages programmes like Youth in Emergency Services and commonly completes SAREX training with neighbouring Coastguard units.

Coastguard North Canterbury is a hard-working unit that has come a long way from being a small unit operating between the Waimakariri and Ashley rivers, to becoming a well-respected organisation in the North Canterbury area.

This year the unit has placed a large focus on their people. The implementation of a Crew Manager supported by a Welfare Officer, whose primary function is to promote diversity and safeguard against possible bullying and abuse, is just one of the ways the unit has achieved this.

Coastguard North Canterbury began the construction of a new CRV this year with reduced operational costs and improved health and safety conditions for both crew and those they rescue.
The new CRV not only provides a fantastic opportunity for the unit to further develop and improve their response on the water, it also ensures the longevity of Coastguard in North Canterbury.

Hutchwilco Volunteer of the Year and Unit Support Volunteer of the Year – Susan Lean, Coastguard Waihi Beach


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