New Zealand Search and Rescue is set to get an extra $58.4 million to help organisations continue to save Kiwis' lives.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford made the announcement last night as four Auckland rescue groups were awarded two prestigious NZSAR awards for two rescues last year.
The Gold Award for Operational Activity was given to rescuers who battled to save three people, including a child, after their boat flipped at Port Waikato last year.
Crews from Karioitahi Surf Life Saving Club, Coastguard Waiuku, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, NZ Police Air Support Unit and Coastguard Papakura fought to save the trio in pitch black, icy cold conditions on May 25.
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Rescuers performed CPR on a woman in her 30s multiple times as she was airlifted to Auckland Hospital after she and a boy were plucked from ice-cold waters off the Port Waikato coast.
The woman and a 7-year-old were hypothermic but survived. The pair were in a boat with a man when it flipped and stalled when negotiating the bar, tossing them into the freezing water.
The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust also received a Certificate of Achievement for the rescue of three of four crew aboard the stricken yacht Essence in October last year. It sank off Cape Brett.
Well-known Tauranga sailor Stuart Pedersen lost his life, but his wife Pamela, her brother-in-law Steve and another member of the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, Bruce Goodwin, survived.
Goodwin was also at the awards to see his heroes receive their accolade and was full of praise for their work.
"Looking up as they winched me from the huge seas I could see their practised hands swapping carabiners over and I knew I was in the hands of some very competent people.
"The rescue had been executed to such an amazing time line in such a time critical operation that I am sure another 10 minutes would have meant that we would have lost another one of my survivor buddies.
"I am deeply indebted to the crew of that helicopter."
Goodwin said he felt "blessed" to be part of a country that had enough compassion to throw so many assets at four people in need at a moments notice without hesitation.
Twyford acknowledged the actions of all involved and said the new funding would help them continue to perform rescues like those in the future.
"We have one of the largest search and rescue areas stretching more than 30 million square miles," he told those at the awards. "That means that NZ Search and Rescue play a vital role in helping Kiwis stay safe in the outdoors, which is why I'm pleased to announce additional funding of $58.4 million for NZSAR over the next four years."
"This 112 per cent funding boost will support the courageous team of more than 11,000 rescuers, 955 of whom are volunteers, to help out the rest of the team of 5 million."
It would build on the $60.5m for Coastguard NZ and Surf Life Saving NZ, and the $2m for Water Safety NZ announced in Budget 2020.
The funding was also additional to about $54m already allocated for search and rescue in this four-year period.
"Non-governmental organisations such as LandSar, Coastguard, Surf Life Saving NZ and Amateur Radio Emergency Communications have been affected by the pandemic. This funding increase will help support them during our economic recovery.
"Between July 2018 and June 2019, 144 lives were saved, 800 people were assisted and 653 people were rescued through the work of the sector. This is through the dedicated work of more than 11,000 people involved in the sector – 95 per cent of whom are volunteers."
The funding would also help promote and target water safety which was a critical issue for New Zealand, Twyford said.
"Recreational boating is New Zealand's largest maritime sector group with more than 1.5 million people involved and today's boost will also support water safety and outdoor safety awareness. This is especially important given last year's spike in boating-related deaths," Twyford said.
Drowning was a leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death, he said.