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Volunteers are the heart and soul of Coastguard

Without thousands of Coastguard volunteers around the country, New Zealand would have no maritime search and rescue service. Our volunteers give significant amounts of their time every year to provide the primary marine search and rescue service around New Zealand, and have done since ships started arriving on our shores.

Our volunteers at the ones at the sharp end, crewing rescue vessels and aircraft, operating radios, coordinating search and rescue incidents, and saving lives at sea. The vast majority of Coastguard units are run entirely by volunteers, some of whom fill a number of roles and truly are the heart and soul of their local Coastguard service.

Volunteers serve in different capacities depending on their skills, interests and other commitments. Volunteer roles include search and rescue vessel crew, radio operators, pilots, search and rescue coordinators, training officers, and also support and governance positions - Presidents, board representatives, secretaries, treasurers and fundraisers.

What happens when a Coastguard crew receives a call for help?

Rescue vessels are located at Coastguard unit bases (marinas, harbours and boat ramps) and are kept fuelled up so that when there is a call, the boat is ready to go. Distress calls can come in directly to Coastguard radio operators or via Police or the Rescue Coordination Centre of NZ, who then contact Coastguard. Our search and rescue coordinators or Duty Officers will critically evaluate the call for assistance and then task the appropriate response team(s) - this is either done by a paging system, where crew members carry pagers, or by phone.

When they are tasked with an incident, rescue crew leave whatever they are doing, which could be from their work or from their children’s sport on a Saturday morning and head to their Coastguard base. There they gather their personal protection gear which includes a personal flotation device (lifejacket) and protective waterproof clothing. They will also complete specific vessel and crew checks to ensure the vessel and crew are in a ready condition to go to sea.

From the call to having the rescue vessel ready to go can take 10-30 minutes depending where the Coastguard base is and where the crew are when they are tasked. The time to get on scene at the incident will then depend on where the incident is and weather and sea conditions.

The numbers of crew at Units varies as do the number of crew on a mission. What usually happens is that the crew are paged and when sufficient crew members to meet the minimum crew number required for that rescue boat have arrived at the rescue vessel base, the rescue boat will then be launched.

Once they are underway, the Coastguard rescue vessel crews rely on their training, local knowledge, and equipment to bring people, vessels and themselves home safely. They work in close coordination with volunteer and staff radio operators on shore, who keep an active watch on all vessels and search aircraft, providing regular updates and monitoring the safety and well-being of all involved.

Join the team!

"I don't do this to be rewarded. It's a personal thing. Coastguard enhances my skills, and the reward is helping the community and the gratification that comes with helping someone who needs us."

Volunteer Application Form

Give us a hand & start making a difference

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