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Award for rescue efforts

Sam Milligan and Michael Wood at the awards ceremony. PHOTO/NZSAR

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Masterton’s Sam Milligan has received a service award after more than 50 years volunteering with Wairarapa Search and Rescue.

Milligan, 74, received the award on Tuesday for his commitment to Land Search and Rescue and WanderSearch, from Transport Minister Michael Wood in the Grand Hall of Parliament.

Milligan said he was surprised when he found out he was nominated and excited to find out he had been accepted.

“I’m pretty humbled to be awarded for the years of service,” Milligan said.

Milligan still takes part in the incident management team, but now he’s taken on a mentorship role to give back to the organisation.

“I’ve worked my way up through the ranks, and now I’m the oldest member within our groups. I tend to stand back now, give people some pointers and make sure they’re doing things right.”

Milligan is being recognised in part for his innovative work with WanderSearch, a tracking system designed for those with cognitive impairment.

WanderSearch has been operating for seven years in Wairarapa, where people can rent a pendant for $5 a day to look after those who may wander.

“Traditional rural searching that we used to do in the mountains is now trending downwards, and yet the urban searching, people associated with WanderSearch, is on the rise. We’re issuing more and more pendants each year,” Milligan said.

Milligan has had to sacrifice time with his family during his volunteering.

He and his wife were married a year after he started volunteering.

“She was very supportive. I take my hat off to her. As the kids grew up, they got pretty excited when dad had to take off to get involved with an operation,” Milligan said.

New Zealand Search and Rescue secretariat manager Duncan Ferner said the awards were an acknowledgement of the time that has been sacrificed to reunite families.

Volunteers “sacrificed time with their family and friends to provide a vital service to New Zealand. Without their efforts, fewer families would be reunited, or loved ones returned home,” Ferner said.

“We were very impressed by the calibre of this year’s award winners.”

Wairarapa Search and Rescue is finalising a place to promote the WanderSearch programme in an empty building in Masterton. It’s expected to be in place in late May.

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