The New Zealand Coastguard community has come together to honour the year’s achievements at the National Coastguard Gala Awards Evening last weekend.
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Their organisation keeps people safe on the sea, coastal waters and lakes of New Zealand. It is made up of over 2,430 highly-trained volunteers who put themselves in harm’s way on a regular basis to ensure the safety of New Zealander’s nationwide. This year Coastguard’s courageous volunteers brought over 7,080 people safely back to land and devoted over 307,000 hours to saving New Zealanders lives on the water.
One of the five annual national awards given to individuals and Coastguard units was awarded to Coastguard South Canterbury.
Erica Lister, a member of the Coastguard South Canterbury Volunteer Unit remembered the incident that had them awarded the 'Rescue of the Year.'
'One second it was calm then the tug dropped and a wave came over the top,' she remembered.
On the evening of Monday 4 February 2013 volunteers from Coastguard South Canterbury were paged about an incident off the coast between Parora and St Andrews. A yacht with two people onboard had reported blown out sails, a broken motor and that they were drifting perilously towards rocks.
The Coastguard South Canterbury volunteers made the tough decision their 8.5 metre vessel could not safely handle the wind gusts of 40-45 knots and three and a half metre breaking sea swells. Tony Lister, a Tug Master for the Timaru Port Company by day and Coastguard South Canterbury volunteer, asked his boss for a tug to attempt a courageous rescue operation.
Within two hours the yacht had been located with no running lights onboard. Conditions were too rough to risk a tow, so the Coastguard team positioned themselves to give shelter from the conditions without collision.
By 1am the wind dropped and a 15 metre fishing boat skippered by another Coastguard volunteer was able to safely tow the yacht to shore.
Thanks to the expertise and training of Coastguard’s volunteers and the support of the local community two people were rescued in a high risk operation.
Patrick Holmes Coastguard CEO says, 'This mission in dangerous conditions showcases the Coastguard spirit of cooperation within a community, of using appropriate resources and keeping crew safe while assisting those in distress. This is an outstanding example of the hours of training, hard work and team work that is required to save New Zealanders lives on the water in some incredibly challenging conditions.'
Coastguard New Zealand President, Dean Lawrence says, 'Coastguard South Canterbury volunteers have shown outstanding service to Coastguard. What an example of exceptional bravery, dedication and skills. Thanks also to the expertise and efforts of the South Canterbury locals who ensured this mission had a successful outcome. The dangerous situation mentioned in this mission is not uncommon for our Coastguard volunteers to face. All award winners have gone above and beyond the call of duty for Coastguard New Zealand. Most people do not realise Coastguard is a charity and our Units are made up of volunteers.'
There are five categories for the awards:
Hutchwilco Coastguard Volunteer of the Year:
Coastguard West Coast
Mitre 10 Coastguard Rescue of the Year:
Coastguard South Canterbury
Coastguard Operational Volunteer of the Year:
Coastguard Air Patrol Volunteer of the Year
Coastguard Southland Air Patrol
Coastguard Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year
The individual award recipients each received a prize that assists in furthering their education and professional development within Coastguard.
Kevin Dreaver, Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year
Mr Dreaver’s Coastguard Raglan peers cited not just his unwavering commitment to training himself and others in their nomination but his ability to encourage achievement and mentor others to the highest potential. A 14 year dedication to Coastguard as a volunteer has garnered respect from his fellow volunteers and Raglan community at large.
Laurie Officer, Air Patrol Volunteer of the Year
Southland Air Patrol’s Laurie Officer has been involved with the Unit for 15 years and it will come as no surprise to his colleagues that he has been honoured at this year’s gala awards. Mr Officer was named Air Patrol Volunteer of the Year for displaying long-term support and passion to Coastguard. He was a founding member of the Coastguard Southland Air Patrol unit in 1998. As President he guided the Unit’s development within the Coastguard framework and has served on the board for 10 years.
Tony Smith, Operational Volunteer of the Year
Coastguard Clyde peers said in their nomination of Tony Smith he is a key person who has been instrumental in securing a building to operate out of and a rescue vessel. The hundreds of hours he has invested in Coastguard and his colleagues at a cost to himself, his family and his business is an outstanding example of his passion and commitment. Mr Smith never hesitates to roll up his sleeves if there is a job that needs doing.
Mark Bolland, Volunteer of the Year
Committing over 20 years of service to Coastguard West Coast’s Mark Bolland is a respected fixture in his community. Described by his peers as a ‘strong foundation stone’, Mark carries out his duties with loyalty, dedication and has placed the West Coast Unit in good stead for the future.
The positions he has held include Board Member Coastguard West Coast and Coastguard Southern Region, Safety Officer and part of the Incident Management team. He was instrumental in the Units growth and oversaw the purchase of the West Coast vessel. He also took ownership of the Health Safety of the Unit and vessel. The hours of behind-the-scenes work had made him a worthy recipient of this award.
If you appreciate the valuable contribution that New Zealand Coastguard makes to the community, there are lots of ways you can help. To find out how, http://www.coastguard.co.nz/index.php?page=helping-coastguard!click_here.