Coastguard volunteers honoured at NZSAR Awards


David St John (bottom row, second from left) and John Thompson (top row, second from right) were honoured at the NZSAR Awards.

Coastguard volunteers David St John and John Thompson were recognised at the New Zealand Search and Rescue Awards (NZSAR) on Tuesday for their incredible commitment to saving lives at sea.

The NZSAR Awards are presented each year in Wellington to recognise outstanding achievements and the courageous people involved in search and rescue in New Zealand. This year the Awards were held as part of the 50th anniversary of the Wahine tragedy.

David has been a volunteer for Coastguard Marlborough for seven years and in that time has qualified to be a Regional Coastguard Instructor and a Coastguard Boating Education tutor, as well as maintaining the roles of Training Officer, Operations Officer and Media Liaison for his own unit. His commitment to Coastguard at all levels is immense, in the past 12 months alone he has dedicated 515 hours to saving lives at sea.

When Coastguard Marlborough took possession of their new high-speed marine ambulance rescue vessel, Bluebridge Rescue, it was apparent that a new training programme was required for the unique vessel – the only one of its kind in New Zealand. Dave produced the Standard Operating Procedure and safety information for the vessel, trained all Masters and crew with a specific focus on high speed operations and using the ambulance bay, and inducted and trained crew from St John, Fire and Emergency and LandSAR. It is for his incredible contribution that Dave was awarded the highest honour at the awards – a Gold Award in Support Activity.

John has been a committed volunteer at Coastguard Waimakariri-Ashley since 2006. He has been the unit’s President since 2015, as well as a board member and the SAR Coordinator. Through his work with Coastguard, John dedicates well over a thousand volunteer hours a year.

“John is an invaluable asset to the Coastguard team,” says Coastguard CEO Patrick Holmes. “His commitment to all aspects of Coastguard work is humbling, whenever something needs to be done John can be counted on, he is selfless in his dedication to helping save lives at sea.”

In the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, Coastguard Waimakariri-Ashley’s headquarters were damaged beyond repair. The crew had to relocate their rescue vessel 2km away, adding 15 minutes to their response time. They knew if they wanted to carry on with their lifesaving work it was time for a new building.

John was on the building committee for six years during which time he supported the project management of the rebuild. After many years of painstaking hard work and determination, John and the other members of Coastguard Waimakariri-Ashley opened their new building in April 2017. John took home a Certificate of Achievement for Support Activity thanks to his amazing contribution.

“It’s poignant that Dave and John received their awards on the anniversary of the Wahine tragedy,” says Holmes. “The disaster saw people from across the Wellington community come together to help in the rescue efforts, it was a catalyst for the formation of a number of volunteer rescue services, including our own Coastguard Wellington, originally known as Wellington Harbour Lifeboat Institution, in 1969.”

“Dave and John are invaluable members of our Coastguard family,” adds Holmes. “Their complete dedication to helping others epitomizes the volunteer ethos, and together they have saved countless lives and helped other volunteers reach their full potential.

“We are extremely proud that their achievements have been recognized at the NZSAR Awards and it’s a fitting tribute to be recognised alongside other vital search and rescue organisations – we take great pride of our volunteers who dedicate so many hours to keeping their communities safe.”

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