Boaties asked to chip in cash

By Laurel Stowell

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Coastguard Wanganui vice-president Bill Greening (left) and fundraiser Jeremy Austin. Photo/Stuart Munro
Coastguard Wanganui vice-president Bill Greening (left) and fundraiser Jeremy Austin. Photo/Stuart Munro

Jeremy Austin wants boaties to put the $300 they would spend filling up with fuel for a weekend's fishing toward upgrading Wanganui's coastguard headquarters.

He and Coastguard Wanganui vice-president Bill Greening are sending out letters to the 953 boat owners on the organisation's register, asking for donations. The letters will be followed up by phone calls.

Boat owners who use the service are being asked to dig deep for the organisation that keeps them safe while they are out at sea.

Mr Austin wants them to peg their contribution to how much they pay in petrol for their fishing hobby, or how much they value the mates they fish with.

About 600 of the boaties registered with Coastguard Wanganui are paid-up supporter members - the $60 they pay each year has been called "the cheapest form of marine insurance there is", Mr Austin said.

He's a semi-retired Wanganui farmer and a veteran fundraiser who helped raise $1.3 million for improvements to Wanganui Collegiate School.

Coastguard Wanganui doesn't need that much. It wants a $640,000 upgrade to its base in Wharf St, and has $380,000 so far. There have already been big donations from the New Zealand Community Trust and the William McAlpine Duncan Trust, and more applications are in the pipeline.

Coastguard Wanganui rescued 74 people last year - mostly by towing them back to port after engine breakdowns.

It's a volunteer organisation, with only 15 per cent of funding coming from government.

Its four radio operators are rostered and on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and they will kick a rescue operation into action if a boat is even half-an-hour past its return time.

Mr Greening said that could be a lifesaver on a coast where weather could turn bad so quickly.

The Coastguard headquarters in Wharf St are 40 years old, Mr Greening said, and too small to service the growing number of boaties.

A bank account for donations has been set up with ASB - its number is 12-3163-0124693-51.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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