Rescue beacon alerts top 450


A woman climber sustaining severe head injuries on Christmas Day, and a motor boat stuck on a sandbar off Foxton Beach, were among the more than 450 rescue beacon incidents for 2016.


The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand received 146 beacon alerts north of Taupo last year, and 107 in the lower half of the North Island. In the South Island a total 95 were received from locations north of Christchurch, and 115 from the lower half of the island. The totals include alerts received for incidents in the air, on land, and on the seas and waterways.


The rescue of two men and a woman from their battered yacht, Platino, north of New Zealand in June, was among some of the dramatic maritime incidents. Last month an alert to RCCNZ assisted Coastguard’s rescue of a party of five, whose motor boat had run aground on the bar off Foxton beach.


On land, the Christmas Day rescue of the woman climber from 1800 metres high in the Aoraki National Park was hampered by cloud. RCCNZ coordinated efforts throughout the afternoon to reach the badly injured woman, with the helicopter crew finally getting her onboard as darkness closed in.


RCCNZ Manager Mike Hill says the number and range of beacon users is growing. The total of beacons registered in the RCCNZ database increased by more than 11,000 last year, to 62,241.


“It is not just boaties, but also more trampers, mountain bikers, hunters, climbers and people working in isolated areas, who are realising a beacon may save their life,” says Mr Hill.


“We coordinate about 850 search and rescue incidents each year, rescuing people and saving lives,” he says.


“Many responses begin with a distress beacon being activated. They are one of the most reliable ways of signaling that you are in distress - whether you are a boatie or on land.”


Mike reminds all those who received a welcome surprise in their Christmas ‘stocking’, and all new users, that rescue beacons must be registered. (It is free.)


“If the beacon is activated we ring the contact person - usually a family member or friend - to find out what the beacon user is doing, his or her route plan, how many people are in the party, and how well equipped they are.


“The important point to remember is we need up-to-date contact details in our database, so we can track down as much information as possible. Then we can work out what type of rescue services are required – such as a helicopter or land-based SAR crew – and what type of causality they may encounter when arriving at the beacon location,” says Mr Hill.


New Zealand’s search and rescue region is one of the biggest in the world - stretching from the mid-Tasman Sea, halfway to Chile, and from the South Pole, almost to the Equator.


“To cover such a huge area our search and rescue ‘team’ must be more than only our staff here at the RCCNZ,” Mr Hill says.


“It includes Police and other emergency services, volunteers such as Coastguard and LandSAR, the New Zealand Defence Force, and also the people, ships and aircraft from any country in the world who happen to be in our region - whether they need our help or if they are the ones we will use for search and rescue.”


RCCNZ also provides the 24/7 Maritime Radio Service. This includes monitoring channel 16, the international VHF channel for maritime emergency distress calls.

To register your beacon go to: