Search and rescue's Sherp wins recognition

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 13:00 02/06/2014

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Ian Russell "Sherp" Tucker says he's embarrassed to be made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. 

"Sherp Tucker might have done a few things but there were a few hundred other bloody people who did it with him," he said.

Tucker spent 12 years as the assistant search and rescue co-ordinator for the Tasman police district.

He said many people had done "an enormous amount" for the search and rescue community.

"SAR is made up of people who might only contribute to one operation, or they might just come up with an idea, have a conversation and make things happen but that will get us some funding down the track. It really is a community thing."

Tucker has been involved with search and rescue for 47 years, earning his nickname Sherp from his adeptness at covering terrain.

Later in his career he developed national standards and procedures that have had a lasting impact on the development of search and rescue in New Zealand.

During the 1980s, Tucker helped set up the 20/20 plan, where 20 members from Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay SAR teams were trained together to consistent standards so members could replace each other on searches. He also developed annual search and rescue exercises in Tasman, which spread to other regions.

Far from mounting any MNZM on the wall, Tucker said he had put the letter from "the honours people" in a search and rescue file box.

His career continues; he is now looking at starting a new search and rescue trust to examine the overarching needs for different SAR groups, overcoming the issues in having search and rescue operations split among Coastguard and LandSAR.

"There's a need to get some overarching infrastructure in place," he said. "Unfortunately it's a fairly lean time at the moment. Things have changed rather dramatically over the last three years - money has come into play and operations are very much fiscal-based from what I can see, which is pretty contrary to a lot of volunteers' belief that the operation should be based on the needs of the people who are in trouble."

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