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Our Mission: Saving lives at sea
Our Vision: No boaties' lives lost at sea

Who we are

We’re on a mission to help Kiwis get the best out of their time on the water safely and with confidence. Each year Coastguard’s 1,978 volunteers give their time to help bring over 8,000 Kiwis back home safely to dry land – from Cape Rēinga to Bluff and across the coastlines, major rivers and lakes of Aotearoa.

We save lives by teaching Kiwis to make the most of our waters through our education programmes and community initiatives, by providing critical marine communications infrastructure and safety and information services.

None of this would be possible without the financial support we receive from our funders, partners, members and donors who generously give to Coastguard so that our volunteers can continue to be there when Kiwis need them most.

The benefits of a unified organisation

President's Report

In what has been a unique year, our simplified structure has allowed us to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Tēnā koutou katoa,

Twelve months ago we published our first Annual Report after our shared decision to simplify our organisational structure by merging our regional and national entities into one.

In that report I summarised the reasons for making this change and the steps we would subsequently need to take in order to address the challenges we face. Simply put, in order for our organisation to be able to continue to achieve our mission, we recognised that we would need both greater agility to deliver on our strategy and also to achieve the potential that only a more unified, nationwide organisation could deliver.

What we did not foresee in 2019 when these conversations were taking place was the unwelcome intrusion and long-lasting impact that COVID-19 would have on our lives; nonetheless our streamlined structure is bearing fruit, with the early benefits of our transformation shared in this report.

This last year has undoubtably been one of the most challenging periods in the Royal New Zealand Coastguard’s recent history. In addition to adjusting to life with Covid, we have been at our busiest in many years.

With international travel bans, Kiwis have made the most of our own beautiful backyard. Between Christmas and March we enjoyed the spectacle of the Prada and America’s Cups on the Hauraki Gulf and it was marvellous to see so many spectator boats on the Waitematā Harbour for every race. Behind the scenes, Coastguard people worked hard to make the event a safe and ultimately successful one, generating a great deal of goodwill and interest in the organisation as a result.

Following the competition we turned our attention to our programme of work to convert 22 of the event’s marshal boats into a new generation of Coastguard Rescue Vessels (CRV) to be distributed around the country. That work continues, unfortunately impacted by supply chain challenges, however with the first batch of CRVs now coming into service we know that the wait will be worth it.

Once in place these vessels will deliver a much-needed modernisation and lift in capability for many of our units and will contribute to our objective of ensuring that our volunteers and staff have the right tools and equipment to complete the mission.

As well as having the right equipment, our highest priority is ensuring we have the right people in the right place. Our Volunteer Strategy aims to achieve that and our investment in a streamlined, competency-based training matrix and online learning environment is our primary focus in 2021. This project is making good progress and is scheduled to go live for volunteers starting their Coastguard training this year.

Neither our training project or our rescue vessel upgrade would be possible without the funding and support of organisations such as New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) and the Lotteries Grant Board. They are just two of the many organisations that enable us to achieve our mission every day and whose support is enabling us to improve the service that we provide New Zealanders. 

As always, my final and most heartfelt thanks are reserved for our Coastguard ‘Team of nearly 2,000’ volunteers and staff without whom none of this would be achieved. You have risen to each and every challenge and your impact has been greater than ever. On behalf of the Board of Coastguard New Zealand and the many Kiwi lives you have touched, thank you.

Ngā mihi nui,

Mike Purchase
Coastguard New Zealand


In the last year, our 1,978 volunteers gave an incredible 291,402 hours of their time saving lives at sea.

A year in progress

CEO's Report

I am proud to see the benefits of Project Horizon and our unified organisation structure starting to shine through.

Tēnā koutou katoa,

In the last 12 months Coastguard volunteers and staff have conducted more than 3,500 operations and assisted more than 8,000 people to return home safely.

Of these incidents, 456 were classified as urgent, life-threatening events, reminding all of us of the need to properly  consider our risks and prepare carefully before going on the water.

In the last year, our 1,978 volunteers gave an incredible 291,402 hours of their time to saving lives at sea - a remarkable statistic by any measure.

Regrettably, Aotearoa New Zealand continues to have one of the highest preventable drowning tolls in the OECD with 74 lives lost and 202 drowning hospitalisations in 2020.

Coastguard New Zealand, alongside its partner organisations in the New Zealand water safety sector, is committed to reducing these figures and our organisation’s strategy is aligned with the sector strategy for this purpose.

As our President has stated, the first step in our strategy – the implementation of Project Horizon – is making good progress and our more streamlined structure is enabling the decision making and delivery of subsequent initiatives to
be achieved more quickly.

Coastguard New Zealand aims to serve all New Zealanders and as an organisation we acknowledge the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This year we have created the role of Kaihautū Māori to guide our organisation in the development of our Te Ao Māori cultural competency and to enable the building of closer relations with iwi and kaupapa Māori organisations.

While we are in the early stages of this journey, our initial steps, including staff training, introductions and work with iwi in Northland, Auckland and the Waikato, have been rewarding and show promise.

In May 2020 Coastguard received the welcome news of an increase in annual funding and through the course of the year CNZ staff have worked with NZSAR to access these funds. This has been a significant task that is now largely complete and our front-line units are experiencing the benefits of this investment.

These benefits can be seen in the form of improved funding for capital projects and repairs and maintenance, and in the establishment of organisation-wide services such as fleet insurance. Along with increased CNZ capabilities in Unit Support, Finance and HR, arising from our new structure, it is great to see progress being made to reduce the overheads on our people, enabling them to focus more of their energy on training and operations.

Improved funding has also enabled the organisation to embark on a programme of important technology-led projects including the roll-out of Microsoft Teams, VHF communications upgrades and the introduction of an online Incident Management system to replace paper-based record keeping.

Most importantly, we have seen good progress in our project to modernise our volunteer training experience, which is making a real impact on the capability and engagement of our most valuable resource – our people.

This last year has been unlike any other and as we mark its completion I would like to acknowledge and thank Coastguard staff and volunteers for their hard work, determination, flexibility and goodwill in the face of all that has been thrown at them.

My thanks also goes to our generous supporters, donors, members and partners - with your support and our great team, I look forward to the year ahead.

Callum Gillespie
Chief Executive
Coastguard New Zealand


Coastguard New Zealand Board

Mike Purchase

Evelyn Davis
Appointed Board Member

Susan Doughty
Appointed Board Member

Aaron Wallace
Appointed Board Member

Liz Urquhart
Appointed Board Member

Peter Kara 
Elected Board Member

John Linn 
Elected Board Member

Ross Lockwood
Elected Board Member

Bennett Medary
Co-opted Member

A message from our sector partners

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Investing in our people

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