Happy International Volunteer Day!

Coastguard New Zealand is celebrating its incredibly dedicated volunteers this International Volunteer Day (IVD). Held on 5 December, IVD is a day to recognise and connect with an estimated 1 billion volunteers around the globe working on the issues that affect us and our diverse communities.

This year’s theme, ‘volunteers build resilient communities’ acknowledges the vital role of volunteers in preventing, preparing and responding to shocks and stresses and building resilience.

One such Coastguard volunteer who truly epitomises this year’s theme is Neroli Gold from Coastguard Kaikoura. Neroli was there for her community during a particularly stressful time, helping to build strength and resilience when the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit.

Neroli rallied her volunteers and together they helped evacuate over 70 terrified people stranded by the earthquake – escorting them on their rescue vessel to the HMNZS Canterbury, who transported them safely to Lyttleton.

Not only that, Neroli also volunteered to run the information centre for Civil Defence, helping over 300 tourists trapped in Kaikoura. She worked all hours to support her community despite her own life being disrupted by the earthquake.

The toll it took on the Coastguard crew was enormous. The seabed by their base was raised by about a metre – leaving them high and dry. Launching their rescue vessel was only possible at high tide. What used to be a 10-minute response time turned into a logistical nightmare, and the rescue crew were at a loss.

But this didn’t deter Neroli, who negotiated with government agencies to ensure the boat ramp would be repaired, even raising $5,000 towards the cost. It was thanks to her hard work and perseverance that eight months later the ramp was repaired and Coastguard Kaikoura could return to their lifesaving work.

While Kaikoura is a small community, there’s no shortage of good people willing to pitch in and join the team saving lives. This is largely thanks to Neroli actively encouraging people to volunteer, mentoring them so they are fulfilled in their roles.

Neroli is just one of the many volunteers whose unwavering support has helped communities through tough times. Coastguard’s more than 2,000 volunteers spend thousands of hours each year responding to incidents and saving lives, and we celebrate each and every one of them this International Volunteer Day.

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