Access to the outdoors is an important aspect of the quality of life for many New Zealanders and part of the country’s tourism appeal. The assurance that rescue services can be readily mobilised in emergencies enhances the quality of that access.
The New Zealand public's expectations of SAR has developed over time. People now generally expect a concerted search effort, and hopefully a rescue of the participants should things go wrong.
A wide and varied history
Many local search and rescue units were established in response to local needs and often after a significant event, such as a shipwreck, or a lost tramping party. Over time, many of these local groups drew together on a regional basis and more recently as national organisations.
New Zealand has international obligations in respect of SAR as a signatory to the conventions on International Civil Aviation (1944), Safety of Life at Sea (1974 – amended 2000), and Search and Rescue (1979). The Minister of Transport has statutory responsibility for the organisation and conduct of SAR activities under the Civil Aviation Act 1990 (s14B) and the Maritime Transport Act 1994 (s431(3)).
The NZSAR Council was established in April 2003 as a result of Cabinet direction to provide for strategic governance of the New Zealand Search and Rescue (SAR) sector.
The Council consists of the chief executives or delegated senior officials from the Ministry of Transport, Maritime NZ, Civil Aviation Authority, NZ Police and the New Zealand Defence Force.
The high level of representation on the Council aims to ensure that those involved do have general SAR knowledge but reduces the risk of organisational self-interest impinging on strategic thinking.
NZSAR Consultative Committee
The NZSAR Consultative Committee was also established in 2003 to provide expert advice to the NZSAR Council on relevant SAR issues. The Committee also serves as a venue for SAR issues to be discussed and to create and strengthen linkages across participants within the New Zealand SAR sector.
In addition, the Consultative Committee serves as a link between the Council, the SAR providers and as a forum for all SAR stakeholders, including voluntary groups.
The NZSAR Secretariat was also established in 2003 to support the Council in the provision of leadership to the sector and to Chair the SAR Consultative Committee. The Secretariat works from (but is not part of) the Ministry of Transport, Novell House, 89 The Terrace, Wellington.
Read more New Zealand Search and Rescue history at Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
The history of Search and Rescue in New Zealand
Who needs rescuing