Wayne Stevens got involved in Land Search and Rescue in 1984, while a student in the tramping club at Wellington's Victoria University.
Back then it was all about manpower to find missing people, but these days it is far more scientific, he says.
"Today the police rely on us to use a lot more behavioural analysis, like the age of the person and the circumstances of the person.
"It helps determine where to put in effort."
There have been memorable missions over three decades, including a two-night rescue on the Tararua Range. "The tent blew in and it was an absolutely brutal night."
But these days he works more behind the scenes, driving search and rescue operations mainly for missing trampers, dementia patients, and children, in and around Wellington.
"I am more into the thinking game around where to put people and where to use people."
It is his long service for Land Search and Rescue, as well as other volunteering roles, that earned Mr Stevens a nomination in the Pride of New Zealand Awards.
He was the regional winner in the Emergency Services section for the lower North Island.
Mr Stevens, 49, a senior analyst at the Treasury in Wellington, also volunteers as a paramedic at the Wellington Free Ambulance, doing a regular Friday night shift.
"You can really make a difference, when someone is dying you can actually help turn that around and that is quite an achievement."
He says his volunteer work helps him do his day job.
Mr Stevens, a father of three, has also helped instigate a programme that sees Treasury staff help with reading at a low decile school in Cannons Creek, once a week.