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Local Groups & Clubs

Unsung heroes at Coastguard

Prepared from a Porter Novelli Press release, agents for Kubota
 |  The Informer  | 

$63.6 million funding boost for Surf Life Saving New Zealand and Coastguard New Zealand, was announced in last month’s budget.

As the second busiest unit in the Eastern region, The Whitianga Coastguard is welcoming the much-needed investment, which will help them continue to keep the coast safe for up to 40,000 people every summer.

Whitianga Coastguard looks after the body of water stretching from Cape Colville in the North to Boat Harbour in the South and is made up of dozens of dedicated volunteers, with crews on call on a 24/7 basis. It has achieved a remarkable 100% recovery rate.

Given the recent funding boost, this story offers a timely reminder about the indispensable role local coastguard units like Whitianga play.

Graham Caddy, has been a volunteer for the Whitianga Coastguard for 12 years. He is very aware how the Whitianga Coastguards rapid response relies on Kubota.

Despite the beaches being among the best in the world, they can also be the most dangerous.

“We are on a peninsula with our eastern seaboard completely exposed. There’s nothing between us and Argentina so, as you can imagine, we get some changeable weather,” Graham explained.

“On a good day it’s paradise, but on a bad day it’s treacherous, and that pretty much sums up our coast.”

Graham became a volunteer when he moved into town about 12 years ago. “A couple of friends approached me to see if I would be interested in being a volunteer for Coastguard eastern region. 23 years in the police force had given me some skills in planning, organising and administration. I wasn’t young, 65 years, but I wanted to do something. At the time Alan Jackson was the tutor of the cadet  programmee which now bears his name. and he became my mentor.  I soon realised that there was a lot more involved. It was much more than jumping on a boat. So I committed to learning everything I could to get an understanding of all things coastguard.”

I had a passion for my police work and I have developed a passion for the Coastguard; that’s why I’m still here. There was a group of us who joined at the same time – Stu Brown, Peter Hari, Brent Watts and we are all still here

Volunteering

“Our  programme is different to typical volunteer programmes. We’ve got crews on call 24 hours a day,” Graham said.

The training and commitment required makes the role a number one priority and why Graham coined the term, ‘professional volunteer’.

“We might not get paid, but there’s a lot of work that goes into being a coastguard. Our training alone is quite a structured regime, and it can take up to 18 months before a volunteer becomes qualified crew,” he said.

Since 2019, the Whitianga Coastguard has also run a cadet  programme which teaches valuable survival skills and rescue techniques to local teenagers. “The 12-week  programme offers a window into life as a coastguard volunteer for students aged between 15 and 17 years. This includes a lot of practical work on the boats,” says Graham.

“It’s not designed to make recruits of cadets, it’s to give them life skills and teach them the value of teamwork.”

The invitation to be a part of the Coastguard is open to all walks of life. Anyone can become a volunteer. “We take people from zero to hero with our training, so they don’t need a background in boating,” Graham noted.

“It can be challenging conducting a search under extreme pressure and coordinating all the aspects that come with it, especially with the vastness of the ocean and the urgency of time,” he reflected. “A successful outcome is always the best part of our job and what we work so hard for.”

The Whitianga Coastguard Unit has a strong community, with 25 wet crew, 12 radio operators and four dry crew volunteers as well as the ten cadets coming through the  programme each year. It is a fantastic and capable team, but it’s critical we have the right equipment to support our operations.”

Kubota and Equipment:

In a job where there is no room for error, Kubota has been essential for their operations due to its reliability and efficiency when towing ensuring a swift rescue operation. 

“We don’t leave our boats on the water. The Kubota tractors allow us to quickly launch and retrieve the boats safely,” Graham explained.

“The tractor tows the boats to and from the marina ramp, it’s all about the launch and retrieval. The ramp is steep; we need that power and Kubota delivers.”

When it was time to invest in their second tractor, the Whitianga team turned to Central Motors dealership. “We told them what we needed, and they produced a tractor with the necessary equipment, including custom made tyres,” Graham recalled.

“Both of our 9M Rescue vessels have a different type of trailer with different requirements. We basically gave a shopping list to the Central Motors team, and they delivered the goods.” Kubota is the major sponsor of the annual Kubota Billfish Classic – the largest Billfish tournament in the world and it is in Whitianga right near the Coastguard. Each year people from across New Zealand enter for their chance at more than $1.5 million in prizes.

Reflecting on his time as a coastguard, Graham sees the community of Whitianga as his biggest inspiration for continuing.

“Using the skills I’ve built over the years, alongside a team of committed volunteers is amazing.”