He's saved boaties, rescued children and adults blown out on to Lake Taupō in kayaks and inflatables and plucked a drowning man to safety. Now, Allan Turia has a national Search and Rescue award to recognise his efforts.

Last year Allan, a Coastguard Tūrangi skipper, was awarded national Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year, first by the Coastguard Eastern Region, and then later Coastguard New Zealand.

Then last week he added another trophy to his collection, a New Zealand Search and Rescue Certificate of Achievement presented to him at a small ceremony at the Tokaanu Watersports Centre.

It was attended by fellow Coastguard Tūrangi volunteers, local police, the harbourmaster, staff from Maritime New Zealand in Wellington and Callum Gillespie, the chief executive of Coastguard New Zealand.

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The ceremony wound up being a candlelit one after the power went out, no obstacle to a man who regularly heads out on to Lake Taupō in the dark on Coastguard callouts.

Allan had been lured along on the pretext of doing boat checks, but somebody let the cat out of the bag a couple of days beforehand. Allan, who had originally planned to wear shorts, instead had to reluctantly don a smart jacket and trouser ensemble at the urging of his partner Lynn.

As well as the framed certificate of achievement, Allan received a small badge to be worn with his formal Coastguard uniform.

"Apparently I'm the first one to wear it which is pretty cool."

Allan says despite missing out on a night in Wellington (the annual NZ Search and Rescue Awards are normally presented in the capital but this year were moved to the regions due to Covid-19), receiving a national honour was still hugely significant, made even better by the fact that the other Coastguard Tūrangi crew were able to be there too.

"I was humbled. It was a surprise. It was really nice I had the crew there and by taking it local, it was really cool."

Allan Turia (right) at the helm of the Coastguard Tūrangi rescue vessel Mauri Ora. Photo / Supplied
Allan Turia (right) at the helm of the Coastguard Tūrangi rescue vessel Mauri Ora. Photo / Supplied

Allan's original Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year Award commends a volunteer crew member of a rescue vessel who "exemplifies the commitment, skills and dedication required to contribute to the successful operation of a rescue vessel". In addition, in 2019 he received a certificate of achievement for his service and commitment to Coastguard Tūrangi and iwi relationships.

The members of the Coastguard Tūrangi unit described his dedication as "over the top" in everything he does.

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That includes organising the weekly training sessions, ensuring the Coastguard Tūrangi vessel and truck are maintained, the log books kept, crews coming off the water checked, training hours recorded and drills completed.

Allan also mentors all crew members, gives everyone on the rescue vessel professional training and ensures everyone has practice at all the stations.

In addition, Allan was lauded for his ability to deliver the practical parts of the Coastguard training clearly and concisely and for his commitment to the Southern Lake Taupō community and to Coastguard.

Allan got into Coastguard in 2002 after taking up his job at the Tūrangi Police Station, where one staff member was already a Coastguard volunteer.

Allan Turia of Coastguard Tūrangi with his Coastguard New Zealand award for Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year in 2019. Photo / File
Allan Turia of Coastguard Tūrangi with his Coastguard New Zealand award for Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year in 2019. Photo / File

"I was talking to a couple of guys here and one said 'what's your background?' And I said '22 years in the Navy' and he said 'have I got the job for you!'

"So he picked me up and we went out in the boat and he said 'here you go, you have a drive' and then he said, 'here's your set of keys, we'll get you a skipper's training as soon as we can'."

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Coastguard Tūrangi operates on southern Lake Taupō and Allan has been involved in numerous rescues. Some were relatively simple searches for boats blown out on to the lake but others have been near-death situations, including one in 2012 where the Coastguard vessel arrived just in time for Allan to grab a drowning man from the lake as he began to slip under the water.

More Coastguard Tūrangi volunteers are always needed. To find out more, pop in and see Allan at Tūrangi Police Station.