New Zealand Community Trust is pleased to announce a grant of $9,730 to Coastguard North Canterbury for an inflatable rescue boat (IRB). Coastguard North Canterbury is the first specialist trained Swift Water Rescue crew in Aotearoa. It is a highly mobile, regional search and rescue response, attending call-outs from the Rakaia to the Hurunui and inland to the Southern Alps.
Swift Water Rescues require specialist skills, training and equipment. The IRBs used for rescues are similar to those used by Surf Lifesaving New Zealand. These IRBs experience tough conditions and weather extremes. They are constantly bashed about by rocks and floating debris. To ensure compliance and safety, they should be replaced every few years, but North Canterbury's IRB is over ten years old and has started to show signs of wear and tear.
North Canterbury Coastguard is a voluntary organisation, reliant on public generosity to generate its income. They have already invested fundraising income to train their volunteers in Swift Water Rescue and to provide the specialist equipment needed, but their old IRB had become unsafe.
Communications Manager Julia James explained the vital importance of the grant: "Coastguard North Canterbury is Aotearoa’s first fully trained, specialist Swift Water Rescue crew. Having the right rescue equipment is vital for successful swift water rescues and the unit’s IRB is key to enabling them to access areas that a rigid-hulled rescue vessel could not. With this added layer of expertise, the Police and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre often call on North Canterbury’s swift water service in response to distress calls in the area.
"Last year, Coastguard North Canterbury rescued five people from a shingle bank after their vehicle got stuck while crossing the Waimakariri River. After days of stormy weather and heavy rain in the mountains, there was a very high chance of the area flooding. Due to accessibility issues, the team had to partly carry their IRB to reach a safe launching area, skillfully maneuvering the IRB through the racing water while fighting the strong current.
"Given the dangerous conditions, the decision was made to ferry the people across the river, two by two, back to safety. The last person was safely returned to shore at 11 pm, just as the storm broke with wind gusts exceeding 30 knots. The full force of the flood increased the river flow from 100 to 331 cubic metres per second. If the people had still been on the island, they would have been swept away by the raging flood water."
This is a vital rescue service, especially relevant across the wider Canterbury region, with its Alps-fed rivers, extreme weather, and high recreational river use. Coastguard North Canterbury are committed to saving lives, and thanks to this generous grant from the NZCT, they now have the necessary funds to ensure they can do so safely.