Royal New Zealand Coastguard
|Purpose||Maritime search and rescue|
2 Fred Thomas Drive
North Shore City
Chief Executive Officer
|Volunteers||2,500 active volunteers
18,000 supporter members
The Royal New Zealand Coastguard is the civilian volunteer coastguard of New Zealand, the primary search and rescue organisation for the nation's coastal waterways and major lakes. The New Zealand Police coordinate smaller search and rescue incidents (Category I) in New Zealand, with assistance and resources from Coastguard as required; major maritime incidents (Category II) are coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), who may call on the resources of the New Zealand Defence Force.
Government agencies including the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service manage maritime law enforcement and border control, with the Coastguard not having a role, unlike in a number of other countries.
Sea rescue services have existed in New Zealand since at least 1861, but it was not until 1976 that various local groups formed the national New Zealand Coastguard Federation. It was granted Royal Patronage in 1990, and dropped "Federation" from the title in 2005.
Coastguard New Zealand is a charitable organisation, relying on membership fees, fundraising, donations, and New Zealand Lottery Grants Board grants, to cover expenses of $8.5 million a year. The service announced a per hour charge out rate to non-members in 2006, and made calls for government funding in 2007. The Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008 passed into law in August 2008, requiring Auckland councils to provide funding for amenities in the city, including Coastguard Northern Region. As of 2010 the annual membership fee is $95, while the hourly call out rate for non-members was $280, up from $225 in 2008.
The charity often faces issues with rescuees who refuse to pay the charges, sometimes for several call-outs in a row.
The national service is divided into four regions, comprising 68 affiliated local units. It has 75 dedicated rescue vessels, plus two fixed-wing aircraft. Vessels include: 9.5 m rigid-hulled inflatable boats, powered by twin 250 horsepower, four-stroke outboard engines and capable of over 45 knots, an 18.6 m ex-Team New Zealand tender, and a $1 million state-of-the-art 14 m jet-powered catamaran. Units are based in cities and towns around the New Zealand coast, and at some lakes including Taupo and Wakatipu. The Auckland Marine Rescue Centre is the control centre for the Northern Region.
The Royal New Zealand Coastguard volunteers all over New Zealand put in 270,000 hours in 2007, while the Northern Region staff as an example expects up to about 420 call-outs in January 2010, of which about half would be by non-members. At 47%, almost half of all call-outs were reported to be due to mechanical failures, often considered avoidable by better maintenance.
Examples of some of the incidents attended are rescuing eighteen schoolgirls from Waitemata Harbour after their competition rowing boats were swamped, pulling two fishermen out of the water in Hawke's Bay after their small dinghy was adrift for nearly 24 hours, and getting a couple to safety after their yacht capsized in atrocious conditions in the Bay of Islands.
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