Coastguard volunteers take out top honours at NZSAR Awards

Coastguard volunteers took out the top honours at the New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) Awards tonight, recognising their years of dedication and commitment to saving lives.

The NZSAR Awards are presented each year at Parliament to recognise outstanding achievements and the courageous people involved in Search and Rescue in New Zealand.

Ray Burge – Coastguard Northern Region, and Ian Coard – Coastguard Riverton, received the top award, with Ray receiving a Gold Award for Operational Activity and Ian a Gold Award for Support Activity.


Ray Burge - Coastguard Northern Region

It was Ray’s heroic rescue of a mother and father drifting out to sea that earned him the Gold Award for Operational Activity. Ray swam 200 metres to reach the father and take him back to shore, and coordinated with Coastguard Maraetai to find the mother and bring her back safely too. Ray’s Coastguard knowledge and training meant he was highly experienced in search and rescue procedures and was able to manage and coordinate the rescue to prevent three children from losing their parents.


Ian Coard - Coastguard Riverton

Ian’s award stemmed from his immense commitment and time spent as a volunteer, having been with Coastguard for 29 years and a key player in a number of risk management, policy and health and safety changes. Ian has been involved in every recent major search and rescue operation in Foveaux Strait working as an Incident Management Team member for high pressure search and rescue operations including the 1998 Cessna aircraft tragedy, the 2010 helicopter crash (where a Coastguard volunteer was killed) and the 2012 Easy Rider tragedy.

“Ray and Ian have both been awarded with the highest honour given at the NZSAR awards,” says Coastguard CEO Patrick Holmes. “It’s a true testament to their courage, dedication, and commitment to saving lives on the water.”

“While they don’t volunteer to be praised, it’s fantastic to see our people recognised and celebrated for the time and energy they commit to bringing people home safely to their families.”

Meanwhile, Pete Woodward – Coastguard Kapiti Coast, Elton Ngawhika – Coastguard Rotorua Lakes, and Nicola Hockley – Coastguard Canterbury, all received a Certificate of Achievement for Support Activity.


Pete Woodward - Coastguard Kapiti Coast

Pete is the Radio Operator and Fundraising Officer at Coastguard Kapiti Coast, and in the past year has dedicated over 150 hours to being a Coastguard volunteer. These hours include a massive amount of time fundraising for his unit, including raising over $150,000 in the last four years towards a new rescue vessel and raising an impressive $30,000 in one night during his Spring Ball fundraiser. He is also a highly trained and experienced Radio Operator and often runs the communications for incidents and training nights.


Elton Ngawhika - Coastguard Rotorua Lakes

Elton is the Training Officer at Coastguard Rotorua Lakes, a role which sees him dedicate over 1200 hours on training and operational activities in the past 12 months alone. Every spare moment Elton has he dedicates to Coastguard work. He spends many weekends at training programmes in Maketu, while other weekends are dedicated to teaching his volunteer crew what he has learned at these programmes. Every volunteer trained by Elton gets their own personal and tailor-made experience, whether they are in Elton’s boat or their own.


Nicola Hockley - Coastguard Canterbury

Nicola has been involved in nearly every area of the organisation since joining Coastguard Canterbury in 2009. She is a Master on her Coastguard unit’s rescue vessel and regularly acts as Skipper on weekend patrols and training exercises. She also sits on several Boards across Coastguard, taking on an immense role of leadership and governance. One of Nicola’s proudest achievements is her contribution towards Coastguard Canterbury’s project to obtain new headquarters after their original headquarters were damaged by the 2011 earthquakes.

“Ray, Ian, Pete, Elton and Nicola have made a huge contribution to Coastguard and Search and Rescue services in general. Their dedication and encouragement epitomizes the volunteer ethos, and together they have saved countless lives and motivated many others to become Coastguard volunteers. 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 are extremely proud of our volunteers who dedicate so many hours to keeping their communities safe,” says Mr Holmes.

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