10 Feb 2019

Northern Coastguard has highest callout rate in single day

6:27 am on 10 February 2019

A record number of rescues on Waitangi Day and increasing numbers of people flocking to the beach is stretching water rescue services.

Coastguard crew look for the missing boat north of Auckland.

Coastguard crew look for the missing boat north of Auckland. Photo: Supplied / Coastguard

Coastguard northern region said it responded to 50 incidents on Wednesday - the highest number on record for a single day.

Its operations manager, Ray Burge, said it received nearly 2500 trip reports and requests for assistance, with 1000 of those made before 10am that morning.

He said the operations centre would only take that many calls over three weeks in winter.

"Waitangi Day really took us by surprise in some respects because it's the middle of the week.

"I think some people have taken the opportunity to have either an extremely long weekend or long week and get out there and enjoy the good weather."

"The weather was perfect for boating."

Mr Burge said majority of the rescues were to do with mechanical issues.

He is reminding boaties to service their vessels, have working communications and wear life jackets.

Mr Burge said he had noticed an increase in smaller water vessels like kayaks.

It was important for owners to write contact information on them, he said.

"From time to time we get reports of kayaks that have been found and the police start thinking, 'Is this a search? Has it just blown off a beach?'

"If someone puts their name and number [somewhere on the kayak] that would save time searching."

Surf Life Saving also reported a busy season with lifeguards rescuing nearly 1500 people since October last year.

Its northern region chief executive Matt Williams said more people were enjoying the beach and finding news ways of getting into trouble.

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Photo: Surf Life Saving New Zealand

"For the last five years we've seen an increasing use of the beaches in Auckland, Northland and Waikato.

"What compounds that issue is they're using the beaches in different ways; crab fishing, spear fishing, snorkelling, surfing, board riding, stand up paddle boarding."

He said the rise of new coastal activities meant novices were hitting the beach to practice newfound skills, creating a "complex recreational environment".

Mr Williams said lifeguards were now upskilling in specialist first aid and boating rescues but beachgoers could help themselves by swimming between the flags.

"Despite the growing number of ways people are finding themselves in need of lifeguards' services, adhering to all our key safety messages will go a long way to mitigate risk, and avoid unnecessary accident and injury."

Surf Life Saving's safety messages also include asking a lifeguard for advice, keeping young children within arm's reach and never swimming alone.