Mairangi Bay Lifeguards win bp Rescue of the Month for rescues in Auckland FloodsThursday, 16 February 2023
On Friday, 27th January 2023, rainfall of an unprecedented level struck the majority of the upper North Island consequentially causing catastrophic flooding in the Auckland area – particularly on the North Shore. As a result of the flooding Mairangi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s Search and Rescue (SAR) squad – Sam Walters, Ben Miles, Joe Wilson, Harry Hickey, Steve Vaughan, Belle Kingi, Alicia McKenzie, Grace Campbell, Harry Barea, and Zoe Macready – were activated and eventually tasked with numerous jobs across the North Shore.
Four members of the squad - Walters, Miles, Wilson and Hickey - were on their way to Eastern Regional Championships and turned around at the Bombay Hills to return to the Mairangi Bay SLSC to join the search and rescue efforts. With floodwater rising across the Auckland region, there were extremely challenging conditions just to make it back to the club to retrieve equipment. They encountered numerous vehicles broken down on the Auckland motorways, cars being driven the wrong way on the motorway and they were eventually forced to exit the motorway and find an alternative route to the Club.
For the North Shore based members it was a challenge simply getting to the Club. Everyone had to abandon their vehicles and walk some distance just to get there.
Water at the roundabout, on the corner of Beach Road and Sidmouth Street, was waist-deep and rising, and the Surf Lifeguards discovered that the stream behind the club was flowing swiftly and starting to enter the containers where Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs) and other equipment is stored. The IRBs and other equipment was prepared quickly amongst the water flowing into the containers.
Initially tasked to head to West Auckland the squad was quickly re-tasked to attend SAR activities in Wairau Park and then on to Wairau Road and lastly Nile Road – all on Auckland’s North Shore. At their rendezvous point in Wairau Road the squad were met with rapidly rising floodwaters which went from thigh high and relatively still, to over shoulder-height, swift moving water in a short space of time. Using IRBs the Surf Lifeguards rescued 69 people, ferrying groups of five-at-a-time to safety from workplaces along Target Road, Wairau Valley between 8:30pm and 10pm.
The lifeguards were then tasked to search for a missing person near Sunnynook Bus Station who was last seen on a kayak. After searching for around an hour the kayak was found, but not the missing person. At this point the lifeguards were stood down for the night.
These rescues and the search were all performed in swift water in the dark with low visibility and rising flood waters.