Outdoors enthusiasts: play it safe this busy Queen’s Birthday

29 May 2020

Enjoy your Queen’s Birthday weekend, but please put safety first. That’s the message from Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ), Coastguard NZ and Water Safety New Zealand to boaties, hunters, trampers and other outdoors enthusiasts.

Mike Hill, RCCNZ Manager, says it could be a busy time as it’s the first holiday weekend post-lockdown. “We’re sure you’re keen to hit the hills or the water. We want you to have a great time AND to return home safely.”

Under COVID-19 level 2 arrangements, walking, biking and hunting on public conservation land along with boating and motorised watersports are all allowed. Notably, duck shooting season started last weekend.

Mr Hill said RCCNZ had seen an increase in rescues with people getting back to their favourite past-times.

Already this week, RCCNZ has rescued a hunter from a party of four who set off a distress beacon. The group were hunting inland of Bruce Bay on the West Coast when one was injured. The hunters were well prepared, had let people know where they were going and were carrying a registered personal locator beacon. RCCNZ arranged for the man to be rescued by helicopter and he was taken to a nearby medical centre for treatment.

Hill says the rescue is an example of the essential service RCCNZ’s provides. He said that RCCNZ and the Maritime Operations Centre (maritime radio) are ready to respond 24 hours, 365 days of the year to assist in life-threatening situations.

“We’re here if you need us, but there’s plenty you can do to keep you and your mates safe.” 

For boaties heading out on the water, it’s all about preparation says Callum Gillespie, Coastguard New Zealand CEO.

“More than 80% of the incidents Coastguard volunteers have attended in the last two weeks have been for mechanical or electrical problems. Before you hit the water check your engine, replace old fuel and charge your batteries, especially if this is the first time back on the water since lockdown.”

Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills says while our waterways are welcoming and inviting they can be unpredictable and unforgiving.

“People need to respect the water and make wise decisions. Stay within your limits, know the risks and take all necessary safety precautions.”

According to WSNZ’s Drownbase over the last three Queen’s Birthday weekends there have been four preventable drowning fatalities, including a surfer and a recreational boatie.

Top three safety tips this Queen’s Birthday weekend:

1. Take a registered distress beacon and waterproof ways to call for help 

2. Tell someone where you’re going

  • For trampers/hunters - fill in AdventureSmart's handy trip intentions form.
  • For boaties - keep Coastguard NZ updated. Every time you leave your home port, contact the Coastguard NZ Communications Centre either on the Coastguard marine VHF channel for your area or on your cell phone via *500. You can also file a trip report via the Coastguard app

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

  • Boaties - make sure your boat’s good to go and you have enough lifejackets on board. For Coastguard’s full level 2 checklist, including how-to videos, go to boatiesbestmate.nz.  Don’t forget to apply the boating safety code.
  • Know the weather - look at the marine and mountain forecasts. If it’s looking dicey – stay home or change your plans.
  • Make sure you have the right equipment - warm clothing, food, water - for the activity and length of time you’re heading out. 

Notes to editors

The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ is part of Maritime NZ and operates 24/7, 365 days a year. They are responsible for coordinating all off shore maritime and all aviation search and rescue missions across an area of 30 million square kilometres. They also carry out initial action for land based missions arising from someone activating a distress beacon.

The Maritime Radio Service does around-the-clock monitoring of VHF distress radio channels within New Zealand’s coastal waters, as well as HF distress channels across a 50 million square kilometre region of the South Pacific. The Service also broadcasts safety information, such as meteorological warnings.

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