Coastguard calls for volunteers

By Kristin Edge

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A coastguard team involved in a major search for a missing swimmer on Northland's coast is now looking for more volunteers.

Whangarei Coastguard played a key role in the search for missing Russian man Alexy Ivanov off Uretiti Beach recently. The day after the 34-year-old was reported missing, a team scoured the beach behind the surfline in the coastguard vessel.

The next day, the rescue boat took out members of the Royal New Zealand Navy, who used a sonar device to search for the missing swimmer. A body thought to be that of the missing man was recovered from the beach last Friday, but police are still to make a formal identification.

Senior skipper David Gray said like any volunteer organisation people came and went, but the number of people they had to draw on for emergencies had dwindled.

More people were needed to staff the rescue boat. Mr Gray said volunteers would be trained with all the skills they needed to help in emergency situations in the marine environment.

Meanwhile, Mr Gray said it appeared the water safety message was being taken onboard by boaties with fewer emergency call-outs this summer.

Since Labour Weekend, the start of the boating season, the Whangarei Coastguard service has been called to about a dozen stricken boaties.

During a busy summer season they can have up to 36 call-outs.

There had been calls to boaties who had broken down and one who had run out of fuel but, overall, it seemed people were going to sea better prepared, Mr Gray said.

He said New Zealand was one of the few countries in the world where a maritime qualification was not mandatory for people in charge of recreational boats on the water.

"Sure it does cost you to do a course, but if you don't get the basics it could cost you your life," Mr Gray said.

The Whangarei Coastguard is based out of Kissing Point and also have an office at Marsden Cove. Anyone interested in joining should contact Mr Gray on 027 289 8357 or John Haselden 027 280 8980.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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