Don't panic, locals are being warned, but smoke, helicopters and rescue vessels will be highly visible as a couple of emergencies are dealt with in the south Hokianga area this Saturday.

The sirens, smoke and choppers will be part of the final exercise in a four-week training programme for 19 young people who have been learning hands-on emergency services skills through the national Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme. The participants came from a range of schools and organisations in the Hokianga district.

Their new-found skills - including triage and first aid, land and water-based rescue and firefighting - will be put to the test on Saturday with scenarios involving victims in the water and missing and injured people on land. There will also be a wildfire to contend with.

The exercise is the highlight of the programme, said Shona Morgan, spokeswoman for Northland's YES co-ordinating work group. It will involve about 75 people, with contributing agencies including NZ Police, NZ Fire Service, Rural Fire, St John Ambulance, NZ Red Cross, Hokianga Coastguard, and a private Salt Air helicopter.


"Members of the public should be aware that there will be helicopters in the air, rescue vessels on the water and smoke, all of which may be visible from on and around the harbour," Ms Morgan said. "There are also likely to be ambulances and fire appliances in the Koutu Point area, near Opononi."

A graduation ceremony for the young people and their families will follow in mid-June, when the participants will be offered the opportunity to volunteer for two months with the emergency service of their choice.