For Coastguard Hawke's Bay skipper, Henry van Tuel, doing what he loves, all while helping save lives on the water is the reason he has volunteered for so long.

He spent six years with Coastguard Wellington from 1991 to 1999 before moving to the Hawke's Bay branch in November 2007. And since then, he has had countless roles including being a crew member on rescue missions, working with the incident management team and most notably, being president.

"I really enjoy the sea. Coastguard is a really good opportunity for me in terms of really challenging myself and I firmly believe if you are living in a community, you should be giving back."

It is people like him who help provide professional marine and rescue services 24/7. But this time, they are asking for help. Until October 28, the national entity is appealing to the New Zealand public for donations to help them continue their life-saving efforts.

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van Tuel said fundraising is "critically important" with about 90 per cent coming from the public.

"What we find generally speaking is we can raise money for new boats, radios, safety equipment etc, but what we struggle with is operational expenditure - to get diesel or petrol. For the running costs of a small organisation, people are less inclined to support that, although locally we have been very fortunate."

Nationally, nearly 7000 New Zealanders – 19 a day on average – are brought home safely from the country's seas, lakes and rivers after an emergency.

The Hawke's Bay Coastguard has 12 radio operators and 18 "wet crew" - including trainees, operational crew and three skippers - all of whom are volunteers.

They attend about 35 jobs a year - both assistance jobs and ones where the police have asked for their help.

Coastguard NZ CEO Patrick Holmes said more than 2000 volunteers give over 300,000 hours of their free time every year to make sure Kiwis can enjoy New Zealand's magnificent waterways, secure in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, someone highly organised, trained and equipped will be there to help.

"Our volunteers will spring to the assistance of anyone in trouble – from a boat not starting or helping a kayaker or surfer in difficulty, to rescuing a man overboard, responding to an emergency flare, locating a drifting vessel or attending to a medical emergency at sea."

Coastguard New Zealand urges Kiwis heading out on the water this summer to keep these three key messages in mind:

- Always wear your lifejacket
- Take two separate waterproof forms of communication
- If something goes wrong, alert Coastguard as soon as you can – never be afraid to contact them

Coastguard is a charity and with limited government funding it needs your help. You can donate to their cause here: www.coastguard.nz/donate-now/