Volunteers honoured at national Coastguard Awards of Excellence

Coastguard Volunteers have been recognised at the Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence for outstanding contributions to their communities. The annual awards honour the brave individuals and their units who provide a crucial life-saving service to Kiwis on the water.

A real stand-out at the awards was Robb Henry from Coastguard Waiheke Island, who in addition to winning the Century Yuasa Coastguard Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year, also took out supreme award as Hutchwilco Coastguard Volunteer of the Year to a standing ovation.

Seven awards were presented for outstanding effort, loyal service and dedication to Coastguard. Coastguard Nelson in particular had a hugely successful night, taking out three of the seven awards including Community Relations Activity of the Year, Unit of the Year, and the highly coveted Mitre 10 Rescue of the Year. The awards were presented by Sir Graham Henry who was in awe of the work Coastguard Volunteers do.

Patrick Holmes, Coastguard New Zealand CEO said “I am immensely proud of every volunteer for committing to our cause of saving lives at sea. Their love of the sea and resolve to provide communities with a world-class marine Search and Rescue service is unparalleled. The Awards of Excellence recognises those who have given so much, and I am delighted that we are able shine the spotlight on a few of our many deserving volunteers.”

“Robb Henry’s commitment is simply incredible; he is a figurehead in his community and has given so much of his life to Coastguard. Without volunteers like Robb our organisation would not exist.”

Robb Henry has served with the Coastguard Waiheke Island unit for 24 years, and has been active at almost every volunteer level of Coastguard, from crew to rescue vessel skipper, Coastguard Instructor to committee member. In the last year alone he has volunteered over 980 hours to Coastguard, participating in dozens of rescues, tutoring scores of Coastguard volunteers, while also participating in the smooth running of the tight Waiheke Island unit.

Robb’s immense contribution to the Coastguard training exercise programme has helped units train as closely as possible to real life scenarios. He’s been known to scatter flotsam such as chilly bins, old dinghies and life jackets in the training area, to simulate the aftermath of a sinking making the situation more authentic for trainees.

Robb juggles his busy building practice with all of his Coastguard commitments and the unit has attended 79 incidents in the past year. His professionalism, humour and ability to connect with people has seen him stand out as the face of Coastguard in his community and is the well deserving winner of the Coastguard New Zealand Volunteer of the Year.

The other Coastguard New Zealand Awards of Excellence Winners are:

Mitre 10 Coastguard Rescue of the Year – Coastguard Nelson

On a windswept afternoon in March a group of people were out walking on Tahunanui Beach and discovered an abandoned waka-ama washed up on the shoreline. 

Coastguard Nelson crew Mark Howard, Geoff Morgan, Emmett Mills, Joe Crick, Wayne Ballyntyne, Graeme Richards and Peter Kara’s emergency pagers sounded at 2.54pm – Police informed them of the situation and in 10 minutes the Nelson crew were on the water.

Conditions were rough with 1.5m -2m swells and an outgoing tide, as well as lots of debris in the water. Time was critical. The crew were familiar with the area and commenced a search pattern towards the most likely target area.

A police observer spotted a yellow object in a pile of debris but was unable to identify what it was. Coastguard proceeded to the area to find the missing paddler clinging to debris and being swamped by the large swell. He was wearing a PFD, but was weighed down by the debris and was losing buoyancy – he was out of breath and struggling to keep his head above water.

He had been in the water for 90 minutes and was swept 3 kilometres off shore, however due to the swift response by Coastguard the man was rescued only 9 minutes after Coastguard launched the rescue vessel. The survivor was brought back to base and the entire operation was completed within 36 minutes. There is little doubt the outcome could have been much worse if emergency services did not have such a swift and efficient response that day.

Century Yuasa Coastguard Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year – Robb Henry, Coastguard Waiheke Island and Nicola Hockley, Coastguard Canterbury (joint winners)

Robb Henry

Robb has volunteered for Coastguard Waiheke for 24 years. He is a Rescue Vessel Senior Master, a Regional Instructor, holds an ISC for the region’s training vessels, and has been involved in almost every volunteer level of Coastguard. Robb is a highly-respected member of his unit and is a huge asset to Coastguard Waiheke.

Nicola Hockley

Since joining Coastguard Canterbury in 2009, Nicola has been involved in nearly every area of the organisation. She is a Master on her CRV with an ISC Master Certificate, a Regional Coastguard Instructor, and is on several boards. Nicola was instrumental in Coastguard Canterbury’s project to obtain new headquarters after the damage of the 2011 earthquakes and has committed many hours to help raise upward of $5 million for the new building. Her passion, dedication and tireless work hugely benefit her community.

Coastguard Unit of the Year – Coastguard Nelson

Coastguard Nelson has gone from strength to strength in the past year. Solid training, recruitment, retention and financial best practice have seen the unit flourish. Its new management structure has shown considerable growth and allowed volunteers to take ownership of decisions. Prior to the new structure the unit had an average financial balance and a dwindling membership which was down to 5 or 6 key volunteers. Today the unit has quadrupled its financial bottom line, has a thriving membership scheme and boasts over 20 dedicated volunteers.

The unit has also ensured that training is not just about qualifying crew but is part of the unit’s survival. A culture of change is now widely understood within the unit.

Coastguard Community Relations Activity of the Year – Coastguard Nelson – Tasman Bay Snapper Classic and the Boulder Bank Walk

The Tasman Bay Snapper Classic and the Boulder Bank Walk are two community events that Coastguard Nelson were heavily involved with. The two events provided Coastguard Nelson with the opportunity to engage with a key sector of water users and promote water safety, as well as showcase their values of respect for the community. They were also highly successful fundraisers raising upwards of $12,000 combined. Both events managed to raise Coastguard Nelson’s profile within the community, promote key water safety messages, increase membership, and raise vital funds.

Coastguard Unit Support Volunteer of the Year – Mathew Hickey – Coastguard Taranaki

Volunteering for Coastguard Taranaki for just over three years, Mathew Hickey has made a big impression in a short time. He has 415 volunteer hours under his belt this year alone, and is his unit’s Safety Officer. Mathew was tasked with the major project of integrating the unit into the MOSS regime, and he met and overcame many challenges along the way to make this happen. Mathew is a team-player, shows compassion for the well-being of everyone he works with, and always goes the extra mile, showing huge potential to become a future CRV Master.

Coastguard Communication and Incident Management Volunteer of Year – Nick Sears – Coastguard Canterbury
Only 33 years old, Nick has dedicated 14 years to Coastguard Canterbury. He is a Coastguard Instructor providing training, mentoring and coaching to volunteers and is a Duty Officer for the region’s radio communications. Nick stands out with his excellent knowledge of IT, and is a dedicated and highly respected member of his team, exemplifying great leadership skills and true professionalism.

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