Phoebe Havill, Ruakākā SLSC and Karekare SLSC receive recognition at 2022 NZSAR Awards

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

The New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) awards are presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievements within New Zealand’s search and rescue region, which covers 30 million square kilometres. The 2022 NZSAR Awards took place at Government House on Tuesday 17 May. 

Surf Lifesaving’s SAR capability has been recognised this year, with three separate Certificates of Achievement going to clubs and members. Alan Mundy, Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Search and Rescue Manager says, “It’s fantastic to see our SAR squads and people being acknowledged at the NZSAR Awards. This is an area that has seen a lot of growth and development”. 

He adds, “Over the past 10 years there has been a significant increase in Surf Lifesaving Search and Rescue operations, with more lives being saved and more people being rescued than ever before”. 

Certificates of Achievement – Operational Activity 

The NZSAR Certificates of Achievement for Operational Activity are awarded for an important contribution to search and rescue in the New Zealand Search and Rescue Region during 2021. 

Karekare Surf Life Saving Club 
For the rescue of an adult and two children from Karekare Beach on 21 November 2021. 

On 21 November 2021, an off-duty lifeguard spotted an adult and two children swimming in the mouth of a notorious rip. The beach was unpatrolled, and although they did not currently appear in distress, she realised the seriousness of the situation. She immediately called for backup and then entered the water to assist. 

With three rescue tubes, she swam through the surf, first providing one tube to a 16-year-old boy. Quickly she prioritised the adult, who was in serious trouble, floating face down and unconscious.  

Meanwhile, an inflatable rescue boat was deployed through challenging surf conditions to assist. As a team, they extracted the adult and returned to shore. The initial rescuer then attended to the 14-year-old boy until the rescue boat could return.  

On the beach, members of the Karekare Surf Life Saving Club worked in perfect unison to coordinate the rescue and response: simultaneously providing CPR to the adult, reassuring distressed members of the public, establishing two helicopter landing zones and coordinating the additional responding and supporting agencies (Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, St John, Police, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand).  

CPR was continued for 26 minutes until the rescue helicopter arrived and paramedics took over patient care.  

Nine days later, the adult swimmer was discharged from hospital and was expected to recover fully 

Ruakākā Surf Life Saving Club 

For the rescue of a man from Mount Parihaka on 8-11 July 2021. 

On 8 July 2021, Police were notified that a man with dementia had left his home in Whangārei sometime the previous evening and had not returned. 

Weather conditions were poor, with widespread rain and cold temperatures. Over the next four days, more than 120 people from LandSAR, Coastguard, Surf Life Saving, Police and members of the public searched for the missing man, with support from Skywork Helicopters and the Whangārei Fire Brigade.  

The incident management team provided outstanding coordination and tasking of the many search teams. Each was able to bring a wealth of experience and specialist skills to the operation, which was conducted in coastal, urban, and bush environments.  

On the fourth day of the search, following clues from CCTV footage of the area, teams were re-deployed to search the bush, creeks and tracks surrounding the Parihaka monument.  

The terrain in the area is extremely difficult, with numerous waterfalls, steep bush, windfalls and slips. The man was located by a search team in a creek bed, having sustained significant injuries from a fall, and was hypothermic from exposure to the elements. He went into cardiac arrest shortly after being found.  

Despite the search team members conducting CPR for an extended period of time until further assistance arrived, the man sadly died at the scene. Through a coordinated effort, all involved contributed to the return of the man to his family. 

Certificates of Achievement – Support Activity 

The NZSAR Certificates of Achievement for Support Activity are awarded for an important contribution to search and rescue in the New Zealand Search and Rescue Region. 

Phoebe Havill, Surf Life Saving New Zealand Club Development Officer, Christchurch/Tasman 
For her service and commitment to Surf Life Saving New Zealand and the Wāhine on Water programme. 

Phoebe Havill joined the Onemana Surf Life Saving Club when she was five years old, becoming a qualified lifeguard at age 14. Her passion for surf lifesaving continued to grow, as did the responsibilities she took on as a club captain, committee member and instructor. 

In 2018, Phoebe attended Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s ‘bp Leaders for Life Programme’, which aims to enhance the abilities of leading lifeguards through practical projects.  

Phoebe and three of her fellow participants noticed a lack of females with Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) qualifications, which are essential to gain senior lifeguarding qualifications and unlocking leadership opportunities within Surf Life Saving New Zealand, including search and rescue.  

At the time Phoebe was going through the leadership programme, just 28 percent of IRB drivers were female. Phoebe quickly realised this was an area that she could influence, and Wāhine on Water was born. This programme consists of female-only IRB training days, which aim to support, grow and retain the talents and contributions of the female volunteers.  

Since April 2019, there have been 17 Wāhine on Water training days, which encourage upskilling and networking, as well as providing an opportunity to engage with female role models.  

A 500-member Facebook group connects female lifeguards across New Zealand, whilst off-shoot Female Leadership Evenings and weekly Wāhine Swim Squads build on the momentum of the programme.  

Phoebe is highly regarded as a dedicated volunteer, gifted leader, and role model by her Surf Life Saving colleagues and her community. 

Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO says, “A huge congratulations to the lifeguards from Karekare SLSC, Ruakākā SLSC for their involvement in the Search and Rescue operations recognized at this year’s NZSAR Awards. Congratulations also go to Phoebe Havill for her ongoing commitment to SLSNZ and the passion she’s demonstrated, helping develop and grow the successful Wāhine on Water programme.”