Volunteers recognised at Coastguard National Awards

Coastguard volunteers from across Aotearoa were recognised recently for their immense contributions to saving lives at sea. 

Coastguard's National Awards are an annual event that celebrate volunteers and units across six award categories. These categories acknowledge rescue operations, community engagement and our volunteers on the water, in the air, at the end of the radio and behind the scenes who ensure our 63 units can be there for boaties in their time of need.

Century Yuasa Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year & Hutchwilco Volunteer of the Year - Thelma Wilson, Coastguard Kawau

Thelma Wilson of Coastguard Kawau was awarded the Century Yuasa Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year and Coastguard's supreme award, the Hutchwilco Volunteer of the Year Award. 

Thelma has gone above and beyond for their unit over the past 12 months and in her 10 plus years as a Coastguard volunteer.

Described by her peers as the “backbone of the unit,” Thelma has given many hours of her time and energy to running the unit behind the scenes to ensure its volunteers can be there for boaties in their time of need.

Thelma has attended the most incidents out of any other volunteer in her unit over the past year and has spent a total of 249 hours on board as skipper and an additional 89 hours on the water training.

With limited skipper availability at the unit, Thelma has made herself available 24/7 to ensure the unit is always ready to respond to callouts.

Thelma’s passion for caring for her community has been a driving force behind her work to ensure MOSS and health and safety procedures are followed and volunteers across the unit’s three crews are competent, confident and rescue-ready.

These awards are testament to Thelma’s immense contribution to her unit and speaks to her unfailing enthusiasm and dedication to saving lives at sea.

Thelma is a skipper, a unit Safety Officer and MOSS champion, a Coastguard Instructor, a management committee member and a highly skilled and respected Coastguard volunteer. All things that make her an extremely deserving recipient of these awards.

Coastguard Unit Support Volunteer of the Year Award - Josh Haslemore, Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol & Peter Chapman, Coastguard Taranaki

The Coastguard Unit Support Volunteer of the Year Award recognises excellence in supporting roles within units and regions, such as board or committee roles, shore crew, training officers, secretaries and other non-operational volunteers.

We received many outstanding nominations for this award, making it extremely tough to narrow it down to just one winner. This year we awarded two volunteers who have both gone above and beyond for their units.

The first winner of this award, Josh Haslemore, has a strong work ethic, knowledge beyond his years and a desire to make his unit as strong as it can be. Josh has worked tirelessly over the past two years to ensure the unit runs efficiently by updating the SOP’s, designing an operational risk matrix and updating training modules.

Tapping into his industry experience, Josh has used his knowledge of risk analysis, safety and culture to identify gaps within the unit and rectify them to ensure the unit is safe and compliant.

Not only has Josh played a massive role in leading his unit through a cultural transformation, he always makes time to recognise and acknowledge the hard work and skill of his team members which is why his unit holds him in such high regard.

Our other very deserving winner gives more than just his spare time to Coastguard. Peter Chapman's contributions to his unit far exceed his required duties and his passion for training, professionalism and supporting his fellow volunteers is unmatched.

Peter has been instrumental in projects like the unit’s radio room upgrade and facilitating regular meetings with volunteers to ensure all areas of the units operations are aligned in achieving the goals set in the unit’s annual operational and training plans.

Peter is a team player who readily helps with the development of other volunteers. He makes himself available at short notice to support others at any and every level within the unit's operation and is a well-respected member of his unit.

Coastguard Community Relations Activity of the Year - Coastguard Whitianga

Getting out amongst local community is a big part of the work Coastguard volunteers do. The Coastguard Community Relations Activity of the Year Award recognises excellence in the areas of public relations, fundraising or community engagement activity by an individual or group.

During the Tuia 250 Heritage Tour, Coastguard Whitianga provided exemplary support to the flotilla of vessels when the historic fleet arrived in the unit’s area of operation.

During the event the unit’s role was to ensure the safety of participants and spectators. In addition to on-water patrol activities, the Whitianga unit responded to a number of calls whilst supporting this event including performing a medical evacuation from HMS Endeavour, urgently assisting a vessel that capsized in the path of one of the tall ships and assisting two of the flotilla waka due to deteriorating weather conditions.

This event confirmed Coastguard Whitianga's ability to provide professional front line operational support to local on-water events in their community. It also helped raise the profile of Coastguard as a marine safety service and highlighted the collaborative relationships the unit holds with partners including Maritime Police, the local Harbourmaster and Maritime New Zealand.

Coastguard Rescue of the Year - Coastguard Nelson

The Coastguard Rescue of the Year is a prestigious award which recognises an exceptional rescue crew who have undertaken an outstanding search and rescue or Coastguard operation.  

A 14 and a half hour search and rescue operation which ensured all six people onboard yacht, Ocean Gem were brought home safely after the vessel lost its steering in treacherous conditions, has seen Coastguard Nelson receive this year's award.   

This was a complex operation which required the crew on board the Coastguard Rescue Vessel (CRV) to obtain a special exemption from RCCNZ that allowed them to travel outside of their area of operation to reach the stricken vessel.  

The crew was notified of the incident just after 2am, beginning their three and a half hour journey to the vessel shortly after. By 4am five senior crewmembers on board the CRV were powering through 4 meter swells and 27 knot winds as they made their way to the yacht  

At 7:20am the CRV rendezvoused with Ocean Gem where all crew were found safe and well, b9:30am the vessel was under tow. The CRV and Ocean Gem made it safely to the dock by 6:40pm.  

During the mission regular radio contact with the unit base and the CRV allowed the risk assessment to be continually updated as risks were identified and managed as they occurred. At all times the crew exercised planned and careful judgement on the tow and kept the Ocean Gem crew updated in every aspect.  

During the rescue there was a minimum of 2 people at the base providing shore backup and oversight and at key times this number was increased to 4. During the mission, forward planning was being looked at constantly for better solutions to mitigate risk. 

The crews onboard the CRV and Ocean Gem used good resource management throughout the mission to make decisions on the risks and options as weather and conditions frequently changed. This rescue demonstrated thorough planning, exceptional communication and risk assessment that ensured it was a successful operation.  


Coastguard Unit of the Year - Coastguard Taranaki

Coastguard Taranaki is this year's very deserving winner of Coastguard's Unit of the Year Award. This award recognises the unit that has achieved excellence in all aspects of its management and operational activities.

Coastguard Taranaki runs like a well-oiled machine. All aspects of operation from training, to volunteer recruitment, financial management, upkeep of systems and procedures, community engagement and volunteers lifesaving work, are all completed to a high degree that when combined, ensure the unit is a reliable service within the community.

Coastguard Taranaki is made up of 43 volunteers who all bring their own knowledge and expertise to the unit, contributing greatly to the unit culture. The Taranaki unit’s management committee works tirelessly to strengthen the reputation of the unit within the local community, particularly with boaties and local marine search and rescue agencies.

Teamwork is at the fore within the Taranaki unit with volunteers regularly working together to achieve the best results for all. The collective approach is not only one of compliance but one that provides opportunities for the unit to improve.

The Taranaki unit’s culture, plans and processes reflect Coastguard values and ensure the unit can save lives at sea.​


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