Coast Guard ever present help on lakes

Children on the water without life jackets are a constant frustration for coastguard volunteers.

"For the price of [life jackets] - why wouldn't you?" Rotorua Coast Guard president Richard Packham said.

The most common callouts recently had been overdue boaties and lost trampers. "It's quite easy for us to drop the search and rescue people off."

With summer just around the corner, boaties needed to remember to check the weather forecast and tell people where they were going before heading out, Mr Packham said.

The coastguard responded to 11 calls for help in the Rotorua Lakes area in the last year, resulting in two people being assisted.

Nationally, the coastguard rescued 158 people and saved the lives of 50 others during search and rescue operations in the last year, its 2012 annual report reveals.

It also helped 368 who would have been at risk if the coastguard had not intervened.

Forty-five people perished before the coastguard could save them and 61 others weren't located and rescue crews stood down.

The coastguard carried out 3339 missions nationally in the year to June 30. Chief executive Patrick Holmes said most callouts were for broken-down boats because of neglectful owners.

"If the engine's been sitting idle for six months and you've got dirty fuel, to go out when you haven't done the basic maintenance on the vessel you're asking for trouble.

"The terrible things that happened, for example, down in Bluff earlier this year with the Easy Rider going down, thankfully they are the minority of our callouts.

"Most of them are things that are a little bit more mundane but nevertheless, if not dealt with could equally be life-threatening."

Mr Holmes said the coastguard was a charity and its biggest challenge was funding. "We only receive a relatively modest amount from the Government towards the cost of our services."

The Government contributed $1.874 million towards the organisation's search and rescue costs for the year ended June 30.

The coastguard had 27.5 paid employees, mostly employed in co-ordination roles, Mr Holmes said.

The organisation relied on volunteers for the "vast majority" of its work. More than 350,000 hours were donated by the coastguard's 2398 volunteers in the past year, an average of 151 hours per person. The majority - 136,000 hours - were spent on radio watch and a further 80,000 hours on training.

Behind many volunteers was a partner or spouse who provided invaluable support, Mr Holmes said. "I can't thank them enough for the sacrifices they make, for the cold or ruined dinners and countless other inconveniences suffered on our behalf.

"All of this makes coastguard the highly respected charity that it is today."

Coastguard's royal patron, Prince Charles, is set to visit the charity at the marine rescue centre in Auckland on Monday during the Queen's diamond jubilee celebration tour.

Water Rescues

  • 11 calls for assistance in Rotorua Lakes

  • Two people assisted in Rotorua Lakes

  • 2874 hours spent by Rotorua volunteers

  • 3339 Coastguard missions nationally in the year to June 30

  • 6634 people assisted nationally

  • 2398 Coastguard volunteers

  • 363,108 total volunteer hours nationally

- Rotorua Daily Post

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