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Who's involved in the SAR System

Page updated: 30 November 2020

Coordinating authorities and other SAR organisations contribute to SAR operations. The NZSAR Council, Secretariat, and Consultative Committee contribute to the strategic development of the SAR system.

Coordinating authorities have overall responsibility for SAR operations

New Zealand has two coordinating authorities

These are:

  • the New Zealand Police
  • the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

Coordinating authorities are responsible for the management and coordination of SAR operations

During a SAR operation, coordinating authorities are responsible for all stages of the SAR operation outlined in these guidelines.

Coordinating authorities are also responsible for preparing comprehensive readiness plans for SAR operations in their areas of responsibility. These readiness plans should be based on agreements between the coordinating authorities and the providers of SAR resources or other support for SAR operations. Plans should aid search planning and SAR coordination processes that are time-critical.

Coordinating authorities should develop plans that:

  • meet the requirements of applicable international SAR manuals
  • cover all potential SAR emergency scenarios likely to occur within the New Zealand Search and Rescue Region (NZSRR), or within the Police District or area of the NZSRR relevant to that plan
  • are based on identified SAR risks and analysis of SAR trends
  • are reviewed and updated regularly
  • are readily available to SAR coordinators in convenient form for quick and easy use.

Other SAR organisations provide SAR resources during SAR operations

SAR resources include:

  • designated SAR units (or SRUs)
  • other resources which can be used to conduct or support SAR operations.


SAR units must be able to perform SAR activities efficiently and effectively

SAR units may be air, maritime, or land-based resources. They do not need to be solely dedicated to SAR operations.

SAR units are:

  • made up of trained personnel and suitable equipment
  • able to reach the scene of distress quickly.

SAR units should be suitable for one or more of the following operations.

  • Providing assistance to prevent or reduce the severity of accidents and the hardship of survivors (e.g. escorting an aircraft, standing by a sinking vessel)
  • Conducting a search
  • Delivering supplies and survival equipment to the scene
  • Rescuing survivors
  • Providing food, medical, or other initial needs of survivors
  • Delivering survivors to a place of safety


The New Zealand SAR system uses SAR units from different sources

The SAR system in New Zealand uses designated SAR units from government sources. It also uses SAR units from non-government and voluntary agencies.

Designated SAR units include:

  • an on-call Royal New Zealand Air Force fixed wing aircraft
  • an on-call Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter
  • an on-call Royal New Zealand Navy vessel.

SAR units from non-government or voluntary organisations should have an agreement with coordinating authorities. Non-government and voluntary SAR organisations that have agreements with coordinating authorities to provide SAR units include:

  • Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC)
  • Coastguard New Zealand
  • Land Search and Rescue New Zealand (LandSAR NZ)
  • Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ)
  • a number of air ambulance rescue helicopters.


The NZSAR Council provides national strategic governance to the New Zealand SAR sector

The membership of the NZSAR Council is drawn from chief executives (or their designated representatives) from the following organisations.

  • The Ministry of Transport (chair)
  • The New Zealand Police
  • The New Zealand Defence Force
  • Maritime New Zealand
  • The Civil Aviation Authority
  • The Department of Conservation
  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ)

The NZSAR Council also includes an independent member.


The NZSAR Secretariat supports the NZSAR Council

The NZSAR Secretariat provides strategic coordination for search and rescue in New Zealand through:

  • support services
  • policy advice
  • implementation of NZSAR Council decisions.


The NZSAR Consultative Committee is a national forum

The NZSAR Consultative Committee is for all SAR stakeholders in New Zealand. This Committee facilitates research, reviews, and reports across the SAR sector.

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