Hearing the horror stories about people drowning in the Hokianga Harbour and on the unpredictable bar spurred Jeff Cramp into helping with the establishment of coastguard in the area.

Cramp, a Senior Constable at the Rawene Police Station, was one of the founding members and volunteers when the unit was formed in 1995.

Northland has the highest rate of volunteering in New Zealand with around 37 per cent of the adult population volunteering about four hours per week on average, according to Volunteering Northland. Last week volunteers were recognised as part of National Volunteer Week.

Coastguard has 2052 volunteers and each year the number of hours volunteers collectively spend saving lives at sea increases. Last year alone saw Coastguard volunteers give nearly 310,000 hours to communities around New Zealand.

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One of Coastguard's inspiring volunteers is Cramp, president of Coastguard Hokianga.

"The Hokianga is an isolated area," Cramp said.

"We battle the Tasman Sea and a west coast bar which can be very unpredictable and catch out even the most seasoned boaties.

"There are no safe havens in this area of the Tasman so what might seem a small problem like a flat battery could and has ended up in a full-blown rescue with lives at risk."

He became a volunteer over 20 years ago, 12 months after taking up a post as the local police officer. He was a keen fisherman, mainly fishing from shore but liked getting out on boats despite knowing little about them or the safety aspects.

"I had heard all the horror stories of people drowning in the harbour and on the unpredictable bar."

When the opportunity came up to start a Coastguard unit in the area, Cramp leapt at it.

"Coastguard gave me the opportunity to learn about boat safety, how to operate boats, and more importantly, save lives at sea by doing something I have been passionate about my entire adult life, helping people in need."

He is now a Senior Coastguard Master, Training Officer for his unit and Coastguard Instructor, which enables him to pass on the knowledge given to him by other Coastguard volunteers and instructors.

"Coastguard is a family of volunteers and we work closely with other emergency services to keep people safe out there," Cramp reckons.

Last September, he was able to be there for a family very much in need when he received a call that a boat had rolled in the harbour with two adults and two children on board.

"Night time was fast approaching so we knew searching was going to become difficult. The water and air temp was about 12C so the risk of a tragedy was high," recalls Cramp.

Luckily for Amber Anderton and her two sons James and Mason, Cramp and his crew reached them in time and were able to bring them home safely.

To find more about Coastguard including how to become a Coastguard volunteer, visit www.coastguard.nz.