Since 1935, Coastguard Auckland has been saving lives at the sea. It relies on the generosity and goodwill of the local community to provide critical search and rescue service to the boating community. Recently, Project Propel, a three-year collaboration between the Coastguard and Unitec Communication Department, was formed to help Coastguard New Zealand to raise funds for a new rescue vessel to replace the one they’ve had for a number of years. Steve Wilson, Coastguard Auckland Rescue Vessel volunteer crew member and associate board member, sat down with me to discuss why this generosity was so important to their on-going future.

Firstly, thank you, Steve, for agreeing to this interview. This is the Coastguard Auckland’s first collaboration with Project Propel. What are your first impressions about it?

What we’re really excited about this collaboration is being able to work with Unitec students, particularly the Event Management students that we’re working with this semester, on a project that will give them some real life work experience. From the very first presentations, we were impressed with the high standard of work that the students had brought forward to us.

How did the Coastguard get involved with Unitec? Who approached who?

We were looking for ways to expand our volunteer base for non-crew volunteers to work on fundraising and other shore-based activities. There was a conversation at a business event between a Coastguard staff member and a representative from Unitec and the idea of Propel came about because we thought it would be a great way to collaborate. From Coastguard Auckland’s point of view, we have a pool of smart and enthusiastic students who are helping us out and from Unitec’s point of view, it means the students get real life experience of planning and delivering an event. In this case, for the great charity that is A Night For Coastguard.

Could you tell us why “A Night For Coastguard” is so important?

We’re not directly government funded so we have to raise all of our funds ourselves from sponsors, donors, memberships, and other activities that we undertake. One of the things that we recently identified is that one of our heavy rescue vessels needs to retire in the next three years. We need to design and build a new one and I think with Propel Project, the crew at Unitec can make a really valuable contribution not just to raise funds but also to raise awareness about the importance of Coastguard and our campaign to build a new boat.

Why are you trying to replace the ASB vessel? Is it just too old or is it a question of out-dated technology?

Well, it’s quite an old vessel and it’s getting to the point where it needs a lot of money spent on it (i.e. new engines, refurbishing costs) and the reality is, all of our boats need to be replaced at some point. For us, it’s a simple calculation of when does the cost of maintaining the boats outweigh the cost of a new vessel?

Besides buying a ticket to “A Night For Coastguard”, what can people do to support their local Coastguard?

I think everyone who has a boat should be a member of Coastguard Auckland. If you’re out on the water and you get into trouble, the Coastguard will help you. If you’re a member of Coastguard then you won’t get charged for that help. If you’re not a member then we do have to charge for the running of the costs and the fuel, which are usually significantly more than the annual membership fee. People can also donate directly to Coastguard, as well as supporting different events that we hold throughout the year.

Besides the boat, if you have enough money, what other things would Coastguard buy?

The vessel is just one part of the cost and then you have the maintenance and the running cost of those vessels. Another significant cost base is training as we do an incredible amount of training for Coastguard volunteers. It’s not cheap to get a Coastguard person up a level. I think for senior level, you’re looking at $12,000 for one person.”

Thank you, Steve, for your time.

For more information about Coastguard New Zealand, visit:
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Words by Kerry Lee.