Coastguard West Coast celebrates qualification of two new skippers

The future at Coastguard West Coast is looking bright with the qualification of two new skippers – Paul and Jayne Wheeler – last weekend. 

These landmark qualifications come after four difficult years for the Greymouth-based Unit, which has experienced low volunteer numbers, vessel issues and an operations base in serious need of a spruce up. Following Paul and Jayne Wheeler’s arrival in 2019 - Paul became President and Jayne the Training Officer - and their first task was to implement a blueprint for growth. 

With just 10 volunteers at Coastguard West Coast and no skippers, on-water capability became a key focus area for the pair. Jayne worked with the Southern Unit Support Team to arrange monthly visits from qualified ISC Masters, who could skipper Coastguard Rescue Vessel Ivan Talley Rescue - which allowed for invaluable on-water training. Additionally, the pair made regular trips to Christchurch and Nelson to expand their training alongside crews from other Units, further building their experience and growing relationship with volunteers across the country. In December 2020, Paul and Jayne were awarded their Operational Certificate and a year later became Senior Crew.  

On Saturday 21 January 2023, the ultimate goal was reached - Paul and Jayne became Coastguard ISC Masters, passing their practical assessments across the Grey River bar. This allowed Coastguard West Coast to complete their first training trip with a local skipper since 2020 – one that ended with volunteers on Ivan Talley Rescue assisting a jetskier who had broken down just offshore. 

"For us it’s really important that we can save people’s lives - now we're operational again we feel like we're able to fulfil our promise to the community that supports us," Jayne Wheeler said.  

Alongside their personal qualifications, the pair have worked with their growing volunteer crew to refurbish Ivan Talley Rescue, their operations centre and to ensure volunteers have a clear pathway to qualifications and improving water safety for local boaties. 

Cheryl Moffat, CNZ Regional Manager Southern says that Coastguard West Coast is a strategically important volunteer group in a small community, like many Coastguard Units.   

"It’s been a long few years for us all, and without the dedication of Paul, Jayne and the local volunteers supported by Coastguard's training team from across the country, we wouldn't have them back in business. The volunteers have spent 3,907 hours in training over that time, she said. 

“Coastguard West Coast has undergone a transformation with Coastguard New Zealand supporting the volunteers to refurbish their operations base alongside a recruitment drive which has seen the Unit grow in numbers and enthusiasm. The future looks great.” 

At the 2022 Coastguard Awards of Excellence, Paul and Jayne Wheeler won the Outstanding Leadership Award, an accolade which celebrates those held in the highest regard for the leadership, initiative, and commitment they bring to their Unit and Coastguard. 

For more information, contact: 
Ben Parsons 
Coastguard New Zealand Senior Communications Advisor 
[email protected]

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