Emergency Services Prepare for Annual Search and Rescue Exercise

Monday, 13 November 2023

Emergency services and personnel will soon gather in one of the most remote locations in the country for the annual Southern District Search and Rescue Exercise (SARex) – Whakarauora Tangata.

The 2023 SARex, which is set to take place from 17-18 November in Doubtful Sound and Te Anau, aims to test various capabilities of New Zealand’s SAR system, ensuring its effective response to nationally significant SAR incidents.

The event is being led by New Zealand Police with approximately 150 personnel participating, including 30 from Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ).

Max Corboy, SLSNZ Otago/Southland SAR Coordinator emphasised the importance of such events for the SAR sector, saying, “Events like these are essential.  There is a significant risk to our effectiveness if plans are not fit-for-purpose or if personnel have not practiced their roles.”

The scenario for this year’s event will centre around a boutique cruise ship floundering and possibly sinking on approach to a New Zealand port.  The simulated ship will be approximately 350-400ft, with around 250 crew and passengers onboard. 

Corboy added, “Recent discussions and debriefs regarding the response to Cyclone Gabrielle have provided valuable insights, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this event unfolds.

“It’s also going to be a great opportunity for us to all come together.  The event will see emergency services collaborating effectively, showing the power of working together as a team, which will, at the end of day, enhance our ability to respond to complex challenges.”

During the exercise, if members of the public are concerned that someone is in trouble in the area, they should still call 111 and ask for Police.

The following agencies will be attending:

  • Southern Lakes Heli
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand
  • AREC
  • Te Rūnanga o Ōraka Aparima
  • Land Search and Rescue - Dunedin / North Otago / Southland / Central Otago areas.
  • Hato Hone St John MIST team
  • Red Cross
  • FENZ
  • Coastguard
  • Milford Emergency Response Team
  • Emergency Management Southland
  • Police SAR – Otago Coastal, Southland and Otago Lakes
  • Harbour Master – Dunedin & Southland
  • NZDF – Air Support