Why we need a Coastguard in New Zealand
NZ COASTGUARD 101
An Island Nation
Before 1941 to get to New Zealand as a private citizen you came by boat.
The first regular commercial air service 1941. Three flights a week to Sydney by 1944.
Even today any significant sized items come across the wharf.
As an island nation with a temperate climate and one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world,(9th longest in world at 15134km United Kingdom 12429km , Continental USA 13746km) it is predictable that New Zealanders are broadly and deeply interested in boats.
For many New Zealanders ‘boating’ is a central component of the Kiwi lifestyle, and the recreational fishing industry is, when the value of the boats is included, the largest single recreational pursuit by value in the country.
Auckland has more recreational boats per head of population than any other city on the planet, and is known as ‘the City of Sails’.
While recreational boating is more popular in the warmer North Island, excellent waterways in the deepwater sounds at the top of the South Island also attract many ‘boaties’.
Water safety is an important part of recreational boating, and many boaties join the New Zealand Coastguard, a volunteer organisation which offers excellent back-up support on the water.
Safety of Seafarers
Running south to north between two great oceans with the Southern Ocean at its foot the New Zealand coastline has always been a place feared by seafarers.
The attrition rate amongst sailing craft was in the extreme. On the West Coast dangerous bars guarded every harbour and often sailing ships departing fully laden would get embayed and driven helpless ashore. On the East Coast things were a little better but weather than could change in an instant had no respect for the unwary.
There were no lighthouses to speak off and charts were very basis with no information about the huge tides that ran around the coast.
The advent of steam ships made a little difference but poor charts and poor pilotage caused saw many go aground with significant loss of life.
Sea Rescue Services
Organised sea rescue services did not exist in the early days of the nation. The Maori are recorded as having made rescues of considerable distinction in their waka tua or fishing canoes. One of our worst disasters, the wreck of HMS Orpehus on the Manukau Bar in 1863 was particularly significant.
The Creation of Sea Rescue Services
Sumner Lifeboat Service founded in 1898 is credited with being our first unit. Although the safety of professional seafarers was high on the agenda, the safety of the public seems to have been the highest priority. The same can be said for the entire organisation and often what we know know as a Coastguard Unit was created in response to some local tragedy.
Typically funds would be raised to purchase a boat and train volunteers so such tragedies could be prevented in the future.
The Unification of Sea Rescue Services
In 1976 a group lead by Auckland Volunteer Coast Guard formed the New Zealand Coastguard Federation and began the task of bringing the diverse sea rescue services together.
This task not only concerned the standardisation of practices but negotiation with government for the issue of radio frequencies ‘exclusive’ to saving lives at sea.
In 2005 the unification reached the stage where New Zealand was formed into four Coastguard Regional groupings under the overall management of the New Zealand Coastguard Federation.
At that time the word Federation was dropped from the title.
Auckland Volunteer Coast Guard (AVCG) underwent a huge transformation. The 'wet' side became Auckland Coastguard Incorporated (ACI). Its assets including its Air Patrol and Communications transferred to Coastguard Northern Region (CNR) and/or independent units in their own name.
John Cowan the last President of AVCG became the first President of CNR.
This was granted in 1990.
New Zealand Search and Rescue
New Zealand Search and Rescue Council [NZSAR]
You can study this subject in full on the Maritime NZ Website http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was established on 5 July 2004.
Maritime New Zealand was made responsible for RCCNZ. RCCNZ’s role was to coordinate all Class III (now Category 2) search and rescue incidents in the New Zealand search and rescue region, image at left.
Throughout New Zealand there are many local and volunteer search and rescue organisations. They also have a rich history, with many of them dating from well before New Zealand had national search and rescue coverage.
The Search and Rescue Partners
There are many including NZ Police, NZ Defence, NZ Land SAR and including RNZ Coastguard. There are Councils and Secretariats charged with the organisation and coordination.
Royal New Zealand Coastguard as a partner
The Coastguard assists the RCCNZ and New Zealand Police with marine search and rescue incidents, by providing more than 2,500 trained volunteers and a fleet of aircraft and boats.
How is Coastguard organised?
The Royal New Zealand Coastguard operates from a network of four regions and 71 affiliated units. This network is located around New Zealand’s coastline and major lakes.
At the top of our organisational tree is Coastguard New Zealand.
Run by salaried management and staff at the Head Office in Takapuna:
CEO Patrick Holmes and a staff of five. Patrick is the titular head in the Government eyes and is the interface with government departments and other agencies. A huge part of Patrick's job is finding the money to keep us moving along.
The Board of Coastguard New Zealand is democratically selected. It comprises a President, Vice President, Treasurer and Board Members elected by Unit delegates at the annual National Conference.
Each of the Regions (see next section) appoints a representative.
Coastguard Boating Education Services, is a stand alone organisation has a member on the Board.
The Board are the policy makers and the Head Office manages policy through regional bodies.
The Coastguard Regions
Coastguard is divided up into four management regions. The distribution of units might seem a little odd but you should keep in mind the nature of our geography and coast line.
COASTGUARD NORTHERN REGION.
This region extends from the top of New Zealand down to Raglan on the West Coast and the tip of the Moehau on the East Coast. That includes Great Barrier Island.
COASTGUARD EASTERN REGION extends from the tip of the Moehau down the East Coast to Napier and takes in Rotorua and Taupo and Turangi.
COASTGUARD CENTRAL REGION extends from Cape Egmont down the West Coast to include the top of the South Island.
COASTGUARD SOUTHERN REGION extends from Kaikoura across to the West Coast to the bottom of the South Island.
We are in the Coastguard Northern Region
All of the Coastguard Units in the area shown in the map come under the administration of Coastguard Northern Region. This includes wet units, air patrols and communications units.There are two areas of management.
A salaried CEO and two Operations Support Managers and administrators involved with oversight of marketing, education, finances, training etc.
The full time Communications and Duty Officer staff in the 'Operations Room" are included.
CNR Board. This is democratically elected.
Each Unit in the Region has the right to stand candidates for the Board.
The President and Vice President are elected individually.
Each of the Operating Groups in the area has a representative on the Board.
For operational purposes the Northern Region is broken down into Operating Groups.
They are charged with the creation and management of Standard Operating Procedures on the water.
Every Unit in an operating group sends representatives to monthly meetings.
The Chairman is elected by democratic process and sits on the Regional Board.
Operations Managers from the Region also attend.
Auckland Coastguard we are in of the HAURAKI OPERATING GROUP (HOPSCOM).
Units operating on the Hauraki Gulf: KAWAU, HIBISCUS, NORTH SHORE, AUCKLAND, HOWICK, MARAETAI, THAMES, GREAT BARRIER, AUCKLAND AIR PATROL, COMMUNICATIONS.
HOPSCOM as we call it rosters duty boats and call-outs to ensure there is always a Coastguard presence in the Hauraki Gulf. Should not be hard to work out that Thames will not be trundling all the way up to Kawau. The SAR Coordinators and Duty Officers in the Marine Rescue Center Communications Room make those decisions.
There are a lots of committees in the mix.
What makes it work? Each of the Units has a very good idea why they exist., no matter how many pieces of paper are flying around when the call comes they get on with what it takes.