For Napier woman Lois Watson a quarter of a century of service with the city's Civil Defence unit started with a simple observation from one of the city councillors at the time.

"I had just pulled out of many years with Cubs and Scouts and Kerry Single, who was a councillor back then, approached me and said 'You can tie knots - you should join Civil Defence'."

At that time the unit had an emergency rescue unit (since eclipsed by the establishment of specialist search and rescue teams) and being able to tie sound and solid knots was a crucial part of the rope work which took place.

"So I joined the rescue team."


Her 25 years of service was recognised last Monday night with the presentation of a long service award medal from the director of Civil Defence John Hamilton and Napier Mayor Bill Dalton.

Also recognised were Burnie Cave, for 10 years of service, and Stephen McLean and Kerry Rusbridge who have both put in five years.

Volunteering for community work has always been part of Mrs Watson's life.

"I was on seven committees when the kids were little," she said.

Like her Civil Defence colleagues, it was all about the community - ensuring it was in the best possible shape to react when an emergency situation unfolded.

With the demise of the rescue unit she went into communications work and is now radio communications manager.

She has been called upon during several incidents through the years, including the Chaucer Rd South seige when gunman Jan Molenaar brought a large part of the city to a standstill, and a major slip on Bluff Hill which endangered several houses and their occupants.

Mrs Watson enjoys the challenge of ensuring a fast and reliable communications system was always in place - given that should a major disaster knock out satellite communications and power, "normal" radio communications needed to be maintained.

"We train once a month and every Wednesday night I call up our 33 radio centres across the city to ensure they are all operating."

Like her three award companions, she said she was proud to be part of what was nationally recognised as one of the best Civil Defence units in the country.

The last year had been a year of change and reformation for the Napier unit with new community resilience manager, Marcus Hayes-Jones taking on the role in January.

"The volunteers have been extremely helpful and patient during my settling in period."

Mr Hayes-Jones said there had been several operational changes in the wake of the introduction of the 'National Best Practice Guidelines' which coincided with his arrival and that the volunteers had adapted well.

"That is why they work so well during an emergency - because they are adaptable and professional and just get on with what needs to be done."

He said Civil Defence had successfully recruited another 15 volunteers to join the 48 current volunteers. They included 14 dedicated to the satellite communications trailer. "This ceremony was our way of showing how much we value the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, along with recognising the number of years they have dedicated to the service."