Paekākāriki Surf Lifesavers to the rescue!

In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle in February, Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club deployed four of their members to help the search and rescue efforts in Hawkes Bay. Fiona Bailey tells us how it unfolded.

Photo: NZ Herald

The Category 3 cyclone hit the Hawke’s Bay area in February 2023, causing extensive damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure. To provide much-needed support as part of the Wellington Surf Search and Rescue squad, Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club members Josh Harvey, Richard Whinham, Ben Strombom and Aaron Richardson, set off to Hawkes Bay

The team of volunteers left on the morning of Wednesday 15 February, equipped with inflatable
rescue boats (IRBs) and search and rescue equipment. They spent three days in the area, working
with the Hawkes Bay and Manawatu Surf Search and Rescue squads, and alongside National
response agencies such as FENZ, Police, Coastguard and LandSAR.

Club member, Aaron Richardson, says that due to communication networks being cut-off there was
very little intelligence as to how dire the situation was in Hawkes Bay. On arrival it quickly came
apparent how severe the situation was and that there was a lot of work to do.

The team, consisting of surf lifeguards members with advanced surf lifeguards skills and search and
rescue capability, were deployed to undertake search & rescue, extraction and clearance in the
southern rural areas of Napier. Working together with a FENZ USAR team, 12 IRBs were deployed,
crewed with two lifeguards and a FENZ USAR member in each boat.

Photo: NZ Herald

“It took one crew 45 minutes to make access to a rural property from the roadside, navigating flood
water, silt and debris. They were met by the home owners who had lost everything but were
determined to remain at their home. A welfare check was completed, information captured and
then the crew moved onto the next property” says Aaron.

The Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club has a long history of providing assistance in times of crisis
with community events such as flooding of Paekākāriki in 2003. The Club also provides support for
many local community and national events like triathlons.

“We’re proud to be able to use our skills and expertise to help others in need,” says Aaron. “Our
thoughts are with the people of Hawkes Bay during this difficult time, and we’re here to do whatever
we can to support them.”

The team’s dedication and commitment to helping others in times of crisis are a testament to the
spirit of community and compassion that exists within the Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club, despite
currently having to operate out of containers from their Paekākāriki site.

Park view of the proposed new Surf Lifesaving Club

The Club is fundraising hard to rebuild after their HQ was demolished late last year. Coastal erosion
and potential future sea level change are forcing the club to rebuild 80metres back, behind the sand

The new building is going to be expensive, around $4.5 million, and they have set up a Givealittle so
people can contribute to the club’s rebuild.

Paekākā is a community-built, funded and run website. All funds go to weekly running costs, with huge amounts of professional work donated behind the scenes.  If you can help financially, at a time when many supporting local businesses are hurting, we have launched a donation gateway.