South Island Coastguard volunteers honoured in NZSAR Awards

All photos courtesy of Mark Coote.

Wellington, 21 May, 2024 - Celebrations are in full swing across the South Island, with three of our Coastguard Tautiaki Moana crew recognised at the New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) Awards last night for their service and commitment to search and rescue in their respective communities. 

Rob Carpenter (Coastguard Marlborough), Jonathan Walmisley MBE (Coastguard Wānaka Lakes) and Martin Balch were all awarded Certificates of Achievement - Support Activity by the Hon Matt Doocey, Associate Minister for Transport at Parliament’s Great Hall. 

The NZSAR Awards are presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievements within Aotearoa New Zealand’s search and rescue region, which covers 30 million square kilometres. 

Rob Carpenter: 

Rob Carpenter has dedicated much of his life to the water, building ships and yachts while enjoying sailing in his spare time. In 2015, he joined Coastguard Marlborough, quietly initiating a remarkable transformation within the Unit. Through his leadership, grounded in fostering relationships and community engagement, Rob has empowered Marlborough volunteers to take ownership and speak up.  

He advocates for diversity, actively encouraging women and young individuals to join the Unit, enabling the deployment of two all-female operational crews. Rob's leadership has elevated the Unit's presence in the local community, with increased engagement in schools, boat clubs, and charity events, promoting water safety.  

At the 2023 Coastguard Awards of Excellence, Rob received Volunteer of the Year and the Outstanding Leadership award for his service to Coastguard Marlborough. 

Jonathan Walmisley MBE: 

Jonathan Walmisley's journey with Coastguard Wānaka Lakes began in 2011, becoming President in 2014. Under his guidance, the Unit has evolved into a sustainable and proficient team, now housed in their purpose-built Marine Rescue Centre.  

Jonathan's leadership style, characterised by inclusivity and leading by example, has profoundly influenced both the Unit's daily operations and its culture. He actively seeks input from his crew members, adjusting workflows to ensure manageable workloads and establishing specialised teams with clear processes. Drawing from his expertise as a Coordinated Incident Management System instructor, Jonathan recognised the necessity for a shore-based incident management team, creating a framework and training pathway that significantly enhanced the Unit's capabilities.  

Over five years, he spearheaded the establishment of the local Marine Rescue Centre, demonstrating exceptional fundraising skills, raising over $1 million, and successfully opening the centre in November 2022. Jonathan's integrity, dedication, and leadership have earned him admiration from both SAR colleagues and the local community and is a respected figure in Wānaka. 

Martin Balch: 

Martin Balch's involvement in search and rescue spans nearly 50 years across various organisations in the Otago region, including long service as a tutor/examiner with Coastguard Tautiaki Moana as well as serving Dunedin Marine SAR, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications, Canterbury Mountain Radio, and the Otago Maritime VHF Association. He's renowned for fostering relationships between these entities.  

Martin's operational expertise, especially in weather and tide conditions, has been invaluable to SAR operations, earning him the role of marine SAR advisor to Dunedin Police. His multifaceted contributions include serving in various roles within SAR and radio communication organisations, dedicating countless hours to both land-based and maritime operations. Martin's personable nature and skills make him a highly valued team member in the SAR community. 

Coastguard CEO Callum Gillespie: “Rob, Jonathan and Martin have all demonstrated outstanding leadership in their communities. We’re extremely delighted to have their long-standing efforts recognised nationally alongside so many deserving people in the search and rescue sector.” 

“We know it takes a crew to save a life so it’s also important to recognise Rob, Jonathan and Martin’s whānau who allow them to give so much time to their community as well as all the volunteers and staff who are involved in search and rescue efforts in Marlborough, Wānaka and Dunedin.” 

Well done to all our award winners, thank you for bringing your all to both Coastguard and the wider SAR sector! 


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