Changing demands on volunteer organisations have led to a call for increased support from their respective regions, and Coastguard Eastern Region, located in Mount Maunganui, provides such support.
Coastguard Eastern Region provides support to the 15 Coastguard units within the Eastern Region, which ranges from Whitianga Unit down to Hawkes Bay Unit, and includes Lake Taupo and Turangi Units, as well as Rotorua Lakes.
Recent years have seen compliance and training demands ramped up.
In response, Coastguard Eastern Region employs a regional manager and four full-time support staff in the shape of Murray Whitehead (operations support), Nicole Harris (training support), Ian Steel (health and safety support) and Simon Tebby (communications and IT support).
Adjacent to the Regional Operations Centre is the Regional Radio Room, which provides radio watch support to the region and has over 25 volunteer radio operators, as well as a host of volunteer duty officers.
“A main part of our work here at Eastern Region is to support with the training and compliance of unit volunteers,” says regional manager Sunny Peeters.
“Most of our volunteers are involved in Search and Rescue, either on the vessels or on the radio, but increasingly we are finding that there is also a need for administrative compliance and financial skills within the Coastguard volunteer family.
”Much of this need is based on the units’ requirements to comply with health and safety regulations and Maritime New Zealand regulations, which involve being able to demonstrate an appropriate level of skill and training.
Many of the Eastern Region’s units were originally established by communities concerned with the lack of available marine safety, before they adopted the Coastguard.
There are now more than 500 dedicated Coastguard volunteers in the Eastern Region - each involved in the safe operation of over 23 dedicated search and rescue vessels (plus an assortment of jet skis and IRBs), as well as Coastguard radio-affiliated channels.
All Coastguard Units are funded through donations, grants, memberships and sponsorship.
Some units have good support in terms of volunteer availability, while others have support in terms of community engagement.
However, most units in the region are always looking for more volunteers from all walks of life.
“The idea of being a Coastguard Volunteer attracts those who are very strongly community minded,” says Sunny.
“They are willing to serve.
They get a sense of satisfaction out of getting good results and enjoy increasing their knowledge and training.
“Our unit volunteers most certainly demonstrate a high level of skill, commitment and excellence in the delivery of service to the end user - the boating public.
”He compares commitment levels, training and camaraderie with those of the ambulance and fire service volunteer auxiliary, with the addition of water.
A Coastguard volunteer himself, Sunny understands the need for support and guidance in negotiating the regulatory framework that accompanies today’s volunteer throughout their Coastguard journey.
The region’s wide access to resources means that it can also support the units in bringing in extra volunteers, whether that’s skippers, crew or radio operators, during incidents of longer duration if necessary.
Sunny stresses that all rescue vessel crew and skippers are volunteers, and each unit needs strong local support.
Sunny urges anyone who is interested in supporting Coastguard to get in touch with their local unit.