Coastguard request declined

Mariners leaving Oamaru Harbour will continue to head into open ocean without the reassuring presence of a coastguard vessel close at hand, a submission to establish a permanent Coastguard NZ unit having been dismissed on the grounds one was not warranted.

Because the nearest rescue vessel is based in Timaru, for the past year Oamaru harbour users and local emergency services personnel have been lobbying for a rescue vessel to be based in or near Oamaru, but a recent request to Coastguard NZ has been declined.

A 8m-10m rescue vessel would have cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

It would also have required local volunteers to put in about 5000 man-hours a year to crew the vessel, and Coastguard Southern region manager Cheryl Moffat said, after due consideration, a Coastguard unit would not be established in Oamaru.

''It's not going ahead at this time. We did a review with police and it wasn't supported by them, particularly.

"We felt in the end that it wasn't warranted at the time and there wasn't the support in the community for it.''

However, if the situation changed in the future, the submission could be looked at again, Mrs Moffat said.

Waitaki district search and rescue co-ordinator Pete Muldrew said there had been incidents off the Oamaru coast in the past that might have benefited from a Coastguard presence.

The submission requesting a Coastguard unit be set up had detailed the nature of those incidents, which ''generally'' occurred at the rate of one a month, he said.

''At this stage it looks like it [a unit] probably won't happen in the immediate future, but it's something we will keep an eye on and address if the situation changes.

''We have previously had [incidents] where we have lost lives at sea and whether a Coastguard vessel would have made any difference at that time, it probably wouldn't have in the cases we've had, but those are difficult things to judge.

''The problem with the Waitaki district is it's so diverse with lakes, rivers and the ocean, so we have got all the three aspects of water.

"Queenstown has a coastguard because it has a very large lake and a very large population near to it, whereas we are well spread out, but we still have a lot of water out there.''


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