Search & Rescue Summit set to stage major maritime Search & Rescue exercises in Dunedin

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Search and Rescue (SAR) Organisations around the country will be converging at Dunedin from the 13th -15th of May for the Surf Lifesaving New Zealand (SLSNZ) Search and Rescue Summit. Over 20 SLSNZ top SAR Coordinators and Senior Surf Lifesaving SAR Squad team members will attend the Summit, which will also host other SAR Agency teams from LandSAR, Coastguard, and Otago Rescue Helicopter and Fire and Emergency.

This year's Summit will focus on Search and Rescue Operational Reviews and lessons learnt. Over three days the delegates will participate in two major Maritime Search and Rescue Exercises, in addition to workshops and forums discussing the latest rescue trends in technology and patient behaviour. Interagency collaboration and Critical Emergency communications will also be key areas of focus.

Major water-based Search and Rescue exercises

From Saturday 14th, the Summit’s focus moves from inside the conference room onto the water. With a giant water-based ‘hide and seek’ exercise based on actual life incidents, the many Search and Rescue agencies will be put through their paces, working together to recover all the patients and return to base safely. The area of operation will cover, from Harington Point North of Otago Harbour to Saint Clair Beach in the City. There could be up to 12 Search and Rescue vessels from three SAR agencies on the water at the height of the exercise, with approximately fifty personnel. The exercise will conclude at around six o'clock in the evening.

The Maritime Search and Rescue Exercises may alarm any members of the public who witness what is taking place. While this is a controlled exercise carried out by experienced Search and Rescue personnel, if a member of the public is concerned that someone is in trouble in the area, they should still phone 111 and ask for the Police as it could be unrelated to the exercise.

Why are we doing this?

The beach provides the single most significant access to water for the New Zealand public each year. The NZSAR recreational report "Reducing SAR responses" 2016 identified that 69% of all New Zealanders visited a beach at least once in that calendar year.

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand is involved in Search and Rescue within the coastal environment. On average, the Surf Lifesaving Search & Rescue Squads and lifeguards carry out over three hundred searches for missing persons and save the lives of over five hundred people each year.

Allan Mundy, SLSNZ National Search and Rescue Manager explains, “By undertaking these large scale exercises, all the contributing agencies can understand how each other operates and collaborate more. So when all the agencies are required to work together to save a life all the interconnecting parts from the various agencies have been tested, with any issues ironed out well before they are needed. The fundamental goal of these exercises is to save lives better and quicker.”