Community Heroes Recognised at 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, acknowledging the rescues undertaken on the boats as well as the work that goes on behind the scenes on land.
“The Awards of Excellence provide an opportunity for the organisation to pause and reflect on the incredible contribution our volunteers make,” said Coastguard New Zealand CEO, Patrick Holmes.
“Last year 6,797 New Zealanders were brought home to their families thanks to the selflessness and dedication of our 2052 volunteers around the country, they really are good people doing extraordinary things in our communities.”
David St John is one such volunteer who took home four of the seven awards including the supreme award of Hutchwilco Coastguard Volunteer of the Year.
Hailing from Coastguard Marlborough, David also won the Community Relations Activity of the Year, the Century Yuasa Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year and played a key role in Coastguard Marlborough winning the Unit of the Year Award.
“David contributes an incredible amount to his unit and Coastguard as a whole,” said Holmes. “Coastguard Marlborough operates in a unique coastal environment and David has been instrumental in ensuring the unit is able to provide a relevant and essential service to that community.”
David clocked up over 500 volunteer hours for Coastguard last year in his capacity as Operations Officer, Training Officer, Regional Coastguard Instructor and Master of the Marlborough Rescue Vessel.
In addition to his work within the Coastguard Marlborough unit, David is actively involved in educating the local community through delivering pre-Christmas boating advice to the local resorts and accommodation houses in the Marlborough Sounds. He is also a regular guest on the local radio station and contributor to the local newspaper.
“David exemplifies the values of Coastguard with his prime concern for safety and welfare of not only his fellow crew and for those being rescued, but also the families and all involved.”
The other Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence Winners were:
Coastguard Rescue of the Year – Coastguard Papakura, Coastguard Waiuku, Coastguard Titirangi and Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol
On the evening of 20th April, Coastguard Papakura, Coastguard Waiuku and Coastguard Titirangi, as well as Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol responded to an urgent call out for an overturned 12 foot boat spotted by a passing vessel on the Manukau Harbour.
Once on the water, it soon became apparent that the persons whom had set out in the boat, a father and his 8 year old daughter, were not near the vessel.
The crews continued the search in what became pitch black conditions with mist cutting visibility down to only 50 metres.
At 7.30pm with spotlights just penetrating the mist, the crew heard a shout for help coming out of the blackness. Quick reactions meant that the crew soon had the 8 year old in their sights. She had been treading water for 4 hours – an incredible effort from a brave little soul.
After the young girl had left the rescue vessel the crew refocused and the search continued for her father.
At midnight, after over six hours of continuous searching with all the Manukau Coastguard units, Coastguard Auckland Air Patrol, airport hovercraft, Westpac and Police Eagle helicopters, the search was stood down.
The next day, a new Coastguard crew took the day off work to continue the search but after almost 100 miles and 8 hours of continued searching were stood down, at which point they recovered the vessel, bringing it back to the shore which was lined with extended family of the missing man.
Century Yuasa Coastguard Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year – David St John, Coastguard Marlborough
Despite being exceptionally experienced, David regularly attends training to ensure his skills are maintained, as well as training other crew members on and off the water. Upon delivery of Coastguard’s new rescue vessel, Bluebridge Rescue, David produced a new training programme for the unit’s volunteers as well as St John, NZ Fire Service, Police and LandSAR on the vessel.
Coastguard Unit of the Year – Coastguard Marlborough
The successful launch of Bluebridge Rescue, a state-of-the-art rescue vessel with a fully equipped ambulance bay, was a huge milestone for Coastguard Marlborough. On top of this the unit has developed a jetty numbering system which has significantly reduced incident response times and is delivering a free safe boating course to the local community.
Coastguard Community Relations Activity of the Year – David St John – Coastguard Marlborough
David was instrumental in producing and delivering the course content for a series of public boating safety workshops offered to over 200 local boaties in Marlborough. The course was so successful it’s now being replicated by other units and has secured funding from Maritime NZ for another year.
Coastguard Unit Support Volunteer of the Year – Henry Samson – Coastguard Maketu
Henry has been a dedicated volunteer for many years with Coastguard Maketu. Not only is he the Unit Training and Health & Safety Officer, he is also a member of his unit’s board and on the Health & Safety committee for Coastguard Eastern Region. Henry has been instrumental in updating risk management and incident reporting as well as ensuring more crew members completed their Skipper training.
Coastguard Communication and Incident Management Volunteer of Year – Graham Caddy – Coastguard Whitianga
Having dedicated over 980 hours to Coastguard Whitianga in the past year, Graham is a highly respected member of the unit where he has been a volunteer for over 5 years.
He is currently Vice President, SAR Duty Coordinator, Operations Manager, wet crew member, Unit Radio operator and Unit Duty Officer as well as being Chairperson for Coastguard Eastern Region.