Coastguard volunteers recognised at national Awards of Excellence


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

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

“The Awards of Excellence are an opportunity for us to pause, reflect and recognise the outstanding efforts of Coastguard volunteers and units who risk their lives to ensure the safety of Kiwis on the water,” says Coastguard New Zealand CEO, Patrick Holmes.

“Last year almost 7,000 New Zealanders were brought home to their families thanks to the selflessness and dedication of our 2,042 volunteers around the country.

“While our volunteers are a humble bunch and don’t seek fame or glory for the work they do, as an organisation we wish to celebrate those who have stood out above all others and recognise the immense contribution they’ve made to saving lives at sea.”

Neroli Gold from Coastguard Kaikoura 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.

Neroli was recognised for her almost 20 years of dedication to Coastguard Kaikoura, where she has selflessly given her time to her community. Neroli’s enthusiasm and perseverance has seen her step up to multiple roles within her unit and ensured the survival of Coastguard Kaikoura during adverse times.

This was particularly evident after the Kaikoura earthquakes struck and rendered the unit’s boat ramp unusable. To secure the future of the unit, Neroli negotiated with government agencies to ensure the boat ramp would be repaired, even raising $5000 towards the cost.

In the aftermath of the earthquake she also volunteered to run the information centre for Civil Defence, helping hundreds of tourists trapped in Kaikoura, and also organised Coastguard Kaikoura’s rescue vessel to help with evacuations.

“Neroli has been recognised for her the pivotal role she plays in her unit,” says Mr. Holmes. “A huge strength of Neroli’s is her ability to act as the bridge between long-serving and new volunteers, helping to foster a strong team to ensure the unit can continue.

“In a small town where there are limited people, Neroli actively encourages younger people in the community to volunteer and be fulfilled in their roles. She is a true leader who is respectful and always acts in a professional manner, while her dedication to her community and her unit knows no bounds.”

The other Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence Winners were:

Community Relations Activity of the Year – Coastguard Maketu

Coastguard Maketu are at the core of their community, providing countless activities to keep their people safe on the water. In the last year they have been involved in key safety events such as Bar Crossing Training to give boaties the confidence to cross the Kaituna Bar safely, keeping watch and acting as a chaperone for rowers during the Maketu to the Mount Waka Race, providing safety information to divers and fisherman at the Astrolabe Reef Dive Site, and supporting the Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade campaign. Coastguard Maketu also made community engagement a huge priority by organising and taking part in events such as the Youth in Emergency Services (YES) Programme, inviting scouts, schools and underprivileged groups to meet the Coastguard Maketu crew and take them out on the rescue vessel, taking part in the Te Puke Christmas parade to raise their profile in the local community, and participating in a Charity Golf Event and Auction Night to raise much needed funds for a new rescue vessel. Through these many community events, Coastguard Maketu have demonstrated their professionalism as volunteers providing high-quality safety information, as well as keeping their community engaged and solidifying Coastguard as an integral part of the community.


Hutchwilco Volunteer of the Year and Unit Support of the Year  - Neroli Gold

Neroli has been a volunteer with Coastguard Kaikoura for almost 20 years. In that time she has taken up many demanding roles, including President, Treasurer, Coastguard Instructor, Media Officer and Training Officer. Neroli has attended the majority of the units operations in the past year taking roles in the Incident Management Team as well as crew on the rescue vessel. She has also acted as the units Duty Officer. Neroli has a genuine interest and cares deeply for her volunteers, making her an incredibly effective leader.


Communications and Incident Management Volunteer of the Year – Peter Kara, Coastguard Nelson

Pete Kara has been a member of Coastguard Nelson for over ten years, and juggles many demanding roles. In addition to being on the Incident Management Team for his own unit, Pete is also a Board Member for both the Central Region and Coastguard New Zealand. But it is his unofficial role as unit mentor that has made an incredible difference to his unit. Pete has brought into the unit a sense of pride and mana, and has set certain standards that have now become a way of life. Coastguard Nelson regularly works with other rescue agencies such as Surf Life Saving and the Police to ensure they are one team saving lives at sea. He also encourages volunteers to think outside the square and values their creativity, fostering a great unit environment where everyone feels appreciated. Pete was recently on the Incident Management Team for a rescue of two fisherman who spent 11 hours on the water before they were rescued. Pete’s sound advice and knowledge as the Duty Officer meant that not only were the fishermen rescued quickly and efficiently, but that the crew rescuing them were looked after and had their safety and wellbeing put first. Pete is a hardworking, considerate and dedicated volunteer who leads by example and always puts others before himself.


Century Yuasa Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year – Mike Carson, Coastguard Wanganui

Mike Carson has been a member of Coastguard Wanganui for over 13 years, and his contribution to his unit is immense. In addition to spending 480 hours in the last year on training his fellow volunteers, Mike is also on call as a Duty Skipper every two weeks. His volunteer roles consist of ISC Assessor, Unit Training Officer, Regional Coastguard Instructor, Committee Member, and SARex coordinator, all while helping educate students at schools on water safety, repairing his unit’s rescue vessel, and working on the MOSS manual and compliance. Through this Mike demonstrates his selflessness in the time he gives to other volunteers, particularly through their training and mentoring. Mike has great respect for other volunteers and uses his wealth of knowledge and experience to help his unit reach their full potential, all while making sure they’re looked after. Never was this more evident than when he and his crew rescued a diver in a medical emergency. Mike’s thorough knowledge of first aid allowed him to provide oxygen to the patient, then instruct his team on how to care for the patient and monitor his condition as they made their way to an awaiting ambulance. Mike kept calm at all times and responded to the patient when his condition worsened. It was Mike’s confidence and knowledge during the situation that allowed everyone, particularly the trainee volunteers, to keep calm and know how to respond. Mike is a team player who fosters a positive atmosphere by encouraging others, offering support, being generous with his time, and being actively involved in many aspects of his unit.


Rayglass Coastguard Rescue of the Year - Coastguard North Canterbury

In early November 2017, Coastguard North Canterbury were put to the ultimate test when a storm hit their community, causing the Waimakariri River to flood and putting eight lives at risk. Heavy rain from the storm caused the river to turn into a raging flood, trapping two vehicles. A young couple and their dogs were two of the people caught out. In a panic, the couple scooped the dogs up and waded to their vehicle as fast as they could. Another six people were left clinging onto the roofs of their cars. The crew from North Canterbury were alerted by their pagers, and set off in two groups – one crew on board RHR to retrieve the stricken people, and another on board Kaiapoi 1 waiting downstream in case of anyone falling in and getting swept away. Within sixteen minutes RHR had arrived at the scene and found the couple in the almost fully-submerged vehicle screaming for help. The crew managed to pluck the couple and their dogs to safety and bring them to the awaiting crew and paramedics on shore. But the second vehicle was where they met a significant challenge. One of the people on the vehicle was unconscious and needed immediate extraction before any of the remaining five could be saved. The crew ventured out between the shore and the submerged vehicle three times, dodging logs, trees and other debris, to rescue everyone stranded. While the extreme conditions added an extra level of difficulty and stress to the mission, Coastguard North Canterbury used every bit of strength and determination they had to see it through. It was thanks to their highly trained team of volunteers that eight lives were saved that day.


Suzuki New Zealand Coastguard Unit of the Year – Coastguard Maketu

Coastguard Maketu have gone from strength to strength in the past year, building up a team of highly trained and dedicated volunteers and working with their local community to keep everyone safe on the water. One of Coastguard Maketu’s biggest achievements is their development of volunteers. Several new members have joined the unit, five of which have become fully operational in the past year. This is an outstanding achievement as this process usually takes two or more years to complete. Not only that, but two members of the unit have qualified as Senior Crew – greatly increasing the skill level of the unit as a whole. Coastguard Maketu volunteers are so dedicated that there is a 99% attendance rate during training, even during the cold winter months and on weekends. Thanks to the volunteers dedication and skill level, Coastguard Maketu have been able to respond to multiple incidents, including the rescue of three men who were trapped in the cabin of their overturned boat as it flipped on the entrance of the Kaituna River. While the unit has dedicated an enormous amount of time responding to incidents, they have also managed to organise a number of community events aimed at educating people on water safety, and are also in the final stages of building a new rescue vessel – a great asset which will see the unit into the next 10-20 years. Coastguard Maketu are a great team who are all dedicated and committed to saving lives at sea, and have taken on every challenge that has come their way.

  • Hutchwilco
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • NZCT
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity
  • Century Batteries
  • Bellingham Wallace
  • Soudal