Wanaka's new $3 million police station was officially opened yesterday, at the same time a search and rescue operation was underway.
As officials and guests sat through the ceremony, Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) was co-ordinating a strategic operation out the back of the station for a rescue on Mt Aspiring.
Michael Woodhouse, who opened the building on behalf of the Minister of Police, acknowledged in his speech the "larger, busier and more complex" policing environment of today's society, with the rescue a prime example of that.
"Policing and rescues doesn't stop," he said, particularly in Wanaka when police and LandSAR worked so closely together."
About 60 guests attended the ceremony, including tangata whenua, local government representatives and police officials.
Construction of the new station began almost a year ago and staff moved from the former police station, built in the 1970s, in August this year.
Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said the building was specifically designed as a civil defence headquarters as well.
"A station such as this is a sign of our commitment to provide the best possible experience for members of the community who visit our premises, whether they are witnesses, complainants, victims or even offenders."
The new 500sqm station accommodates 18 police, and its custodial facilities include holding cells, video interview rooms and a medical examination room.
It also features a community and operational space which will be transformed to manage SAR operations when necessary.
The region has an average of about 40 SAR operations each year and is one of the busiest regions for alpine SARs.
Later in the afternoon, Wanaka Senior Constable Mike Johnston said the search and rescue operation was to airlift two experienced Wanaka climbers who made a judgement call to abort a "very, very challenging" alpine climb in Mt Aspiring National Park.
The two men left about 3am on Tuesday and were prepared for bad weather. However, the much higher than expected volume of snow, and heightened avalanche risk that came with it, triggered a call for help from a satellite phone the pair carried about 8am yesterday.
They managed to make it to a spot where they could be easily airlifted out by helicopter around noon.
"It was very pleasing to see these guys thinking outside of their own little bubble, taking their own safety and the safety of their rescuers into account," Mr Johnston said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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