After two years of hard work, we now have six trained specialist water response teams across Aotearoa.

The Working Safely in Water project has achieved its goal and finished at the end of June. Water response activities now sit with the Regions guided by local procedures. A deployment guideline will cover out-of-Region incidents.

National Advisor for Water, Hamiora Taite, said everyone involved in the project had done a really good job over the last two years, as had the specialist water response team members.

‘It is a great feeling realising how far we have come since we first sought expressions of interest from people to be part of the teams at the end of 2022.

‘We were originally looking to establish three teams, but after severe flooding events in 2022 we requested an expansion to six teams – one per Region and one extra team drawn from Napier/Hastings/Palmerston North – and this was approved.

‘Since then, we have trained the six teams and provided them with equipment including rafts, trailers, thermal undergarments, personal flotation devices, and trailers.

‘We are developing E-learning modules for emergency response driving in water, attending motor vehicle crashes in water, wading, and Officer Risk and Awareness training. The National Policy on working safely in water and guidelines to accompany is not far from being signed off. Also coming is a water rescue drop down in ICAD (WATERESC) to capture data from water-related incidents more accurately.’

Hami said the teams have put their training to the test over the months including deploying to Abbey caves and working with Police, Cave rescue, and USAR, to find and recover a missing boy who was lost during an outdoor education class when the caves became flooded.

‘Working safely in water response is part of business as usual now which is good news for everyone – Fire and Emergency and the people of Aotearoa.

‘Now that the teams are operational, they will be supported by the Specialist Response Team to make improvements following lessons learned from recent deployments.’

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