Help the Bluff Coastguard raise funds

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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Foveaux Strait is a relatively small body of water - but it is ruthless and it is fierce.

Too many lives have been lost in this stretch of water and the Bluff Coastguard wants that to change.

But it needs your help.

The coastguard is raising money for a new boat - one that is larger, faster and safer than its present model.

But boats that save lives don't come cheap.

This one will cost about $1.2 million - a lot of money, but not too much to ask if it is going to save lives.

And, with a body of water as unforgiving as Foveaux Strait, that is exactly what the boat will be doing.

This is why The Southland Times is getting behind the cause and calling for the community to do what it can to help.

After all, the people calling for help are often our own brothers, sisters, cousins, friends.

The Southland community has already proved what it can achieve when it really matters - just look at the successful campaign to retain neurosurgery services in Southland and Otago.

We banded together and came up with $3m.

This cause is just as worthy.

The stretch of water patrolled by the Bluff Coastguard is among the roughest and most deadly in New Zealand. It claimed:

Six lives when the Kotuku capsized in May 2006.

Two lives when Extreme 1 capsized in January last year.

Eight lives when the Easy Rider capsized in March last year.

The list goes on.

Bluff Coastguard president Andy Johnson wants that to change.

But he wants his volunteers to be safe, too.

"Our professional volunteers are the heart and soul of what coastguard does, so it's imperative we have the safest, most robust vessels available to them, not only for carrying out their search-and-rescue missions, but to protect their own safety in all weather conditions as well."

You have already shown how much you value the work the Bluff Coastguard does in protecting your children, your family, your friends, by helping raise $568,000.

But that is only half what is needed.

So, today The Southland Times is joining the fundraising call, and urging you, our readers, to do what you can to help this worthy cause.

Every little bit helps - $5 here, $5 there - it all adds to the final tally and brings the coastguard that little bit closer to securing its new vessel.

Each week we will update you on the progress and publish the names of those who have contributed to the fundraising.

Here's how you can help:

Individuals and families - you can make a one-off donation, or pledge donations to be paid monthly or at intervals convenient to you.

Companies - can make a cash donation or help by providing in-kind donations of services or materials.

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Designated gifts - you might like your donation to be used to pay for a particular part of the rescue boat or the equipment that will be installed. Or you might like to make the gift in memory of a loved one.

Why a purpose-designed rescue boat?

Cheaper fishing boats are available but unsuitable for coastguard purposes.

"Southlanders have the reputation of punching above their weight but, at the moment, we are restricted. We need the correct tools to do the job," Mr Johnson said.

The Coastguard Bluff rescue boat is 30 years old (twice the age of the Coastguard Riverton's boat). It is kept in the water, ready to respond, at Bluff Harbour. However, that means a shortened life span as well as higher maintenance costs. There is also the risk of unexpected breakdown or equipment failure.

The boat is unsuitable for rough conditions and can only be used in moderate seas. At 8.5 metres long it has a limited range because of its fuel capacity.

"Many of our volunteers' families are concerned about their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters going to sea when there is a callout in rough conditions," he said.

And it can carry only nine people, including an optimum crew of five.

The proposed boat will be a fast-response vessel with specialised equipment to save lives.

It will be designed to make it easy for rescuers to get people out of the water.

The new 12m rescue boat would be built using the expertise, competence and commitment of the community, Mr Johnson said.

It would be able to cover the entire area of operation - north to Nugget Pt, west to Centre Island and south encompassing Stewart Island.

LIFE SUPPORT

Bluff Coastguard at a glance (for year ended June 30, 2013):

Has 29 active volunteer crew members

Gives 2357 hours of service to its community

Responds to five calls for assistance

Rescues 33 people and makes sure they return home safely to their families or transports them to medical treatment

Responds to three police calls

IN COMPARISON

CURRENT BOAT:

30 years old

Can travel in only moderate seas

Has limited range

Only 8.5 metres long

NEW "FIT FOR PURPOSE RESCUE BOAT FOR FOVEAUX STRAIT:

Can get to those who need help faster

Is safer for volunteer crew

Can operate in rougher conditions

Is able to carry more rescued people

Will have space for winching patients into helicopters

Will be built locally using the community's expertise

Will be designed to last 30 years

Will have lower running costs in the long term 

 

- The Southland Times

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