From the tip of the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Ranges to 400m underground, there are few places that the Waihi Mines Rescue volunteers won't go.

"I don't want to see it, but we are ready," says Mal Coleman. "It's empowering, knowing we are ready when it comes to the crunch."

Mal was team captain on a recent rope rescue training session held on the pedestrian bridge at Waikino and at the ore kilns of the Waikino historic stamper battery near Waihi.

The scenario saw Cedric - an 80kg dummy who is put through some tough challenges - unconscious at the bottom of a kiln with no exit.

Go anywhere: The Waihi Mines Rescue team at their training exercise in Waikino. Photo / Alison Smith
Go anywhere: The Waihi Mines Rescue team at their training exercise in Waikino. Photo / Alison Smith

Communication and calm, methodical execution of decisions was among the qualities expected by trainers Jed Moriarty and ropes expert Russ Hodgson who observed the team.

This included Josh Foster, Maru Donaldson, Troy Hargreaves, Dave Oliver as safety adviser on the day, Mal Coleman and Mitch Sims.

Rope rescue has been a highly useful skill of the mines rescue team which was called on for a fall by a person at the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Range and two rescues of dogs who fell from cliffs near Waihi Beach in recent times.

Jed and Dave are both members of the Mayor View Fire Brigade, but callouts come from LandSAR or in the case of a Pinnacles callout, Westpac Rescue helicopter.

"A guy had fallen onto a ledge and the winch couldn't reach him because of a dead tree. Within 10 minutes they'd flow to us and we were waiting with all our gear," says Jed.

"For the community's benefit, we are resource that's available 24-7 and people that know us know our capabilities."

The mines rescue team is among only a handful of highly trained volunteers in the country capable of using BG4 long duration breathing apparatus sets to undertake rescues underground.

They are PHEC trained - pre hospital emergency care - hazardous material response capable and were on hand for emergencies such as last year's White Island rescue due to their ability to use long duration breathing apparatus.


To pass the training test, team members must hike carrying 80kg, then a 120kg stretcher with full kit and water to the trig in the Bowentown hills, all while wearing their breath apparatus that heats up the longer it is worn.

"Everything in life after that seems easy," says Mal. "After hour two you are already in the hurt locker and you have two hours to go. I don't know where it comes from but you pull it out of the bag and get it done."

He says the technique is to be fit and keep fit, which he does with hit (high intensity) training, though each of the team has their own way of keeping fit.