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Search, rescue a matter of Trust

Established in 1990, the Wairarapa Rescue Trust has performed heroic acts for 34 years. MARLEE PARTRIDGE sat down with two of the founding trustees to learn about their latest efforts in the community.

Wairarapa Rescue Trust works closely with the police, LandSAR, Riversdale Surf Life Saving, Wellington Free Ambulance, the Rescue Coordination Centre [RCCNZ], and Amalgamated Helicopters.

About 25 individuals, families, and Wairarapa businesses are signed up as Friends of the Trust and help fund lifesaving equipment, resources, and training courses for the local organisations involved with search and rescue.

Sam Milligan has been involved with Search and Rescue [SAR] for 54 years and is one of the founding trustees of the Wairarapa Rescue Trust.

Milligan said the money that the Trust receives goes back into the community through the purchasing of equipment for local operators.

Last year, the Trust was able to purchase new thermal imagine binoculars, a new Inflatable Rescue Boat [IRB] motor for the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club and a LandSAR stretcher.

The Trust keeps its ears to the ground for what local search and rescue outfits might need to operate. It also takes requests. The Surf Life Saving Club at Riversdale mentioned the need for a new IRB hull and road trailer.

Milligan explained that the SLS club often has to go to Castlepoint or other stretches of the coast, and if the sea is too rough, they can’t get there by water.

The SLS received some funding for the new equipment elsewhere, and the “Trust has agreed to pay that difference for the boat – which will be here later this year,” Milligan said.

The Trust has also installed two new automated external defibrillators [AED] in the community. An AED was installed at the Homewood Storeroom Café in December.

“The nearest AED was out at Riversdale and there was a big gap between there and where the next one was,” Milligan said.

The second AED was installed in December at Mt Holdsworth near the car park area.

“That suggestion came from a number of groups that go up there in their motorhomes,” he said. “The committee heard the case and agreed that we’d help with funding that.”

The AED at Mt Holdsworth has been dedicated to a former sponsor of the Trust, Vic Jacobsen, who passed away last year.

Search and rescue operations have changed significantly over the past three decades since the Trust was established.

Milligan believes that the same number of people are likely getting into strife but that improved communication systems mean that they can talk to somebody who will know exactly where they are and get back on track.

He also agrees with police and LandSAR advice not to rely solely on one communication method and says you shouldn’t leave your personal locator beacon [PLB] at home.

“A PLB battery, when you buy a new one, could last six years,” Milligan said.

The Trust rents PLBs for $5 a day from the Masterton Trust Lands Trust office.

Trust chair John Bunny said the new Friends of the Rescue Trust structure has been successful – in the support they have received from the community and in donations.

“What we’ve just recently done is tangible proof of money that has been raised by the community, going back into the community,” Bunny said.

He also noted the number of instances recently where the importance of PLBs has been iterated after searches.

“PLBs are a lifesaver,” he said.

“We encourage anybody that’s going, not only the mountains but anywhere isolated in terms of the coast or whatever, to take a PLB.”

PLB activations help cut down the time it takes to find people, and the equipment in the helicopters can be used to “pinpoint exactly where someone is”.

The Trust helps cover a significant geographical area, with Wairarapa having mountainous terrain, urban areas, and coastal stretches.

Another donation made to Amalgamated Helicopters on Tuesday included additional search and rescue gear and a portable AED.

Pilot Jason Diedrichs – JD to most – has helped with many searches and rescues over the years.

Both Bunny and Milligan agree that JD and his vast knowledge of the area has been critical in the success rate of search and rescue.

“He’s really, really good, we couldn’t get a better person,” Bunny said.

“[JD] knows all the nooks and crannies, all the little saddles,” Milligan also said.

Bunny said the Trust has a “pretty good feel” for what might be needed for search and rescue.

“When the need arises, because we now have this money available through the Friends, we’re able to respond reasonably quickly in terms of meeting that demand,” he said.

JD gave thanks to the Trust and their support over the years.

“Thank you to the rescue trust for providing this equipment because it will make a difference in saving people’s lives and keeping our staff safe.”

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