bp Rescue of the Month – January 2023
On Friday, 27 January, most of the upper North Island experienced an unprecedented weather bomb causing catastrophic flooding in the Auckland area, particularly on Auckland’s North Shore. As a result of the flooding, Mairangi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s Search and Rescue (SAR) squad – Sam Walters, Ben Miles, Joe Wilson, Harry Hickey, Steve Vaughan, Belle Kingi, Alicia McKenzie, Grace Campbell, Harry Barea, and Zoe Macready – were activated and eventually tasked with numerous jobs across the North Shore.
Four members of the squad, Sam Walters, Ben Miles, Joe Wilson and Harry Hickey, who were on their way to the Eastern Regional Championships, turned around at the Bombay Hills and returned to the Mairangi Bay SLSC to join the SAR efforts. With the floodwaters rising across the Auckland region, it was challenging for them and their North Shore-based colleagues to make it to the surf club and retrieve their equipment. Everyone had to abandon their vehicles and walk some distance to get there.
Water was waist-deep and rising, and the Surf Lifeguards discovered that the stream behind the club was starting to enter the area where the Club's Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs) and other equipment were stored.
Initially tasked to head to West Auckland, the squad was quickly re-tasked to attend SAR activities in Wairau Park, then on Wairau Road, and finally Nile Road, all on Auckland’s North Shore. The squad faced rapidly rising floodwaters, which went from thigh-high and relatively still to over-shoulder-height, swift-moving water in a short period of time. Using IRBs, the Surf Lifeguards rescued 69 people, ferrying groups of five at a time to safety from workplaces along Target Road, Wairau Valley, between 8:30 pm and 10.00 pm.
The lifeguards were then asked to search for a missing person near Sunnynook Bus Station who was last seen on a kayak. After searching for around an hour the kayak was found, but not the missing person. At this point, the lifeguards were stood down for the night. These rescues and the search were all performed in swift water in the dark with low visibility and rising flood waters.
bp Head of Country NZ, Matt Elliott, says bp is proud to support incredible volunteer Surf Lifeguards like those who make up the Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club’s SAR squad.
“Since 1968 bp has been proud to stand behind Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its Surf Lifeguards who consistently put their amazing skills into action. This rescue highlights the variety of work Surf Lifeguards are doing around Aotearoa, not only at beaches, and the versatility of the IRBs.”
Andy Kent, Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Lifesaving Manager, said that this was a great example of teamwork from all of the Surf Lifeguards involved.
"Everyone worked together and reacted quickly, enabling them to rescue a large number of people in particularly difficult circumstances. These rescues were also covered extensively in the news media, reflecting considerable credit on the squad and the wider Surf Life Saving movement.”
Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club, as the first-place winner of bp Rescue of the Month, will be recognised with $500-worth of bp gift vouchers and a framed citation to display at their club.