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Honouring region’s SAR mainstay

Jeff Sayer, left, talking to Featherston firefighters after a fire broke out on Remutaka Hill in 1993. PHOTO/ WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE

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Jeff Sayer has devoted his time to search and rescue operations for more than half a century.

A keen pilot who doesn’t let bureaucracy halt progress, his 54 consecutive years of service — most of which was voluntary — was recognised at the NZSAR awards evening earlier this year.


Sayer received an award from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, for his service to the sector.

Due to ill health, the award was received on his behalf by New Zealand SAR advisory committee member John Yaldwyn.

“One thing about Jeff Sayer, he’s one of those can-do people,” he said.

He described Sayer as a man who was not afraid to challenge the status quo.

“If a rule stops him from doing something, he wants to know why.

“It made him one of those people that just got things done.”

Sayer flew planes and helicopters on SAR missions for 20 years, from 1973 to 1993.

Yaldwyn has known Sayer since the late 70s and said the search and rescue landscape was a little different back then.

“There wasn’t as much two-way radio equipment available as there is now.”

Sayer was a long-time air search adviser and was active in establishing the organisation’s presence at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton.

John Yaldwyn accepts the certificate of achievement awarded to Jeff Sayer. PHOTO/ GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Amateur radio emergency communications section leader David Brady had worked with Jeff for more than a decade, and said the award recognising his contribution was a long time coming.

He said Sayer worked at the aerodrome until recently, ensuring radio equipment and lights were maintained.

When the strip went dark, Sayer would get stuck in, so planes could land at the night.

“He’d go down there and fix up the runway lights if they didn’t work for some reason.”

Sayer built several radio systems for SAR and played a key role in the establishment and maintenance of repeaters and other radio equipment.

In 1988, he was made a life member of Wairarapa AREC, and was appointed as the National Director of AREC in 2002.

Poor health meant he had to step away from the position 15 years later.

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