Join the team!

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of Coastguard Nelson

Without Coastguard volunteers the upper South Island would have no maritime search and rescue service. Our volunteers give significant amounts of their time every year to provide the primary marine search and rescue service around New Zealand, and have done since ships started arriving on our shores.

Coastguard Nelson volunteers are the ones at the sharp end, crewing rescue vessels and aircraft, operating radios, coordinating search and rescue incidents, and saving lives at sea. The vast majority of Coastguard units are run entirely by volunteers, some of whom fill a number of roles and truly are the heart and soul of their local Coastguard service.

Volunteers serve in different capacities depending on their skills, interests and other commitments. Volunteer roles include search and rescue vessel crew, radio operators, pilots, search and rescue coordinators, training officers, and also support and governance positions - Presidents, board representatives, secretaries, treasurers and fundraisers.

Rescue vessels are located at Coastguard unit bases (marinas, harbours and boat ramps) and are kept fuelled up so that when there is a call, the boat is ready to go. Distress calls can come in directly to Coastguard radio operators or via Police or the Rescue Coordination Centre of NZ, who then contact Coastguard. Our search and rescue coordinators or Duty Officers will critically evaluate the call for assistance and then task the appropriate response team(s) - this is either done by a paging system, where crew members carry pagers, or by phone.

When they are tasked with an incident, rescue crew leave whatever they are doing, which could be from their work or from their children’s sport on a Saturday morning and head to their Coastguard base. There they gather their personal protection gear which includes a personal flotation device (lifejacket) and protective waterproof clothing. They will also complete specific vessel and crew checks to ensure the vessel and crew are in a ready condition to go to sea.

Find out how to become a Coastguard Nelson volunteer and make a positive difference in your local community!

Discover what it means to be a Coastguard Nelson search and rescue volunteer - the sense of reward and camaraderie, the mental and physical challenges and the priceless opportunity to save lives on the water.

If you are enthusiastic about Coastguard Nelson but would prefer to be part of our shore crew, discover how your passion can be put to good use. Roles such as radio operator, incident controller, secretary and treasurer are all vital to our operation.

Do you want to know what it’s really like to be a Coastguard volunteer? Hear from our people on the ground.