Surf Life Saving New Zealand Overwhelmed With Support and Donations Following Cyclone Gabrielle Response

Friday, 23 June 2023

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and generous donations received for its Search and Rescue teams following their response to Cyclone Gabrielle.


A significant amount of money has been donated to assist Hawke’s Bay Search and Rescue squad members to replace equipment and build future capability.  Notably, the Hawke’s Bay Foundation has made a substantial contribution of $30,000 to assist in replacing surf lifeguards personal equipment.


Jess Bennett, Hawke’s Bay Search and Rescue Coordinator, said, “We have been truly overwhelmed by the support from the community, especially from those who are themselves, still recovering from the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle.  We can’t thank the public enough for their incredible generosity.”


When Cyclone Gabrielle struck Hawke’s Bay earlier this year, 80 surf lifeguards from various regions including Wellington, Kāpiti Coast, Horowhenua, Manawatū, Whanganui, and Hawke’s Bay responded swiftly after a state of emergency was declared.  Working alongside Fire and Emergency New Zealand, they conducted rescues and provided assistance to those in need.  They worked in some of the most severely impacted areas, such as Eskdale and Bayview, where they successfully rescued over 200 individuals and aided more people and pets to safety.


Considering the increased frequency and severity of flooding events like Cyclone Gabrielle, SLSNZ is actively collaborating with its search and rescue sector partners to ensure that its volunteers have undergone appropriate training and are well-equipped with the necessary resources, such as fit-for-purpose wetsuits, to effectively respond to emergencies. 


Bennett acknowledged, “Some of our equipment does get damaged when we respond to events like Cyclone Gabrielle. However, we want to assure the public that our surf lifeguards are being supported and they won’t be financially burdened.”


Chris Emmett, SLSNZ Acting Chief Executive Officer, added, “We are working alongside our partners to implement a comprehensive plan that supports our volunteers around out-of-pocket expenses as a result of their emergency response efforts.  We are making good progress, and in the meantime, while we wait for the plan to be formalised, our teams are well supported and will continue to protect the communities they love.”