BP comes to club’s rescue

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The Nelson Surf Life Saving Club has a new $30,000 inflatable rescue boat (IRB), after their story of a dramatic rescue during last

February’s big storm was judged to be the winning entry in a nationwide competition run by BP.

BP is a major sponsor of surf life-saving in New Zealand and has been running the competition for the last three years to recognise the important role IRBs play in saving people’s lives. This year, the Nelson Surf Life Saving Club won the competition after their story of an IRB rescue on the Waimea River was voted the best entry by BP staff around the country.

“We responded to a 111 call during the big February floods saying there were some people stranded in a car in the Waimea River,” Nelson Surf Life Saving Club president Marcus Gardner says. “We put our IRB into the floodwaters and had to cut our way through about four farm fences to battle our way up to the car.

“The car was up on a little rise and the floodwaters were up to the wheels and getting higher, so we decided we had to get them out of there in a hurry. We put the three young adults and nine-month-old baby into the boat, with the baby wrapped inside the mother’s lifejacket, and took them back to safety.”

Marcus says they found out that their story won the competition about three weeks ago when he got “a call out of the blue” from BP and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

“It was a bit of a shock. The whole set-up costs around $30,000, so it’s a big expense for the club.

“It’s a great prize. We do a lot with the IRBs, not just at the beach but also in floodwaters because they are so versatile and can be man-handled or airlifted into any situation.

“To rescue those people we had to throw it over a barb-wire fence and up a stopbank. You can get them into places that you can’t get other boats.”

Club captain Aaron Lyttle says the win was timely because they needed to replace two of their older IRBs.

“We had discussed replacing the boats at the last committee meeting, so it was good timing,” Aaron says. “We had joked at the meeting that we had it sorted because we’d entered the competition and were going to win a boat, and it turned out we did.”

Aaron says the last pieces of equipment for the IRB, which came with a trailer, outboard motor, fuel bladder, two personal floatation devices and $100 worth of fuel, arrived in Nelson two weeks ago. It was displayed at the opening of the new BP Connect service station in Richmond last Tuesday.

“We just want to say a big thanks to BP,” Mark says. “They are a great sponsor of surf life-saving.”

BP’s director of convenience retail and asset management, Frank van Hattum, says BP has sponsored New Zealand surf life-saving since 1968.

“It’s one of the most feel-good sponsorships. It’s been something special – if we had a big cost-cutting, this would be one of the last things we’d give up.

“You know that somewhere one of these boats is going to help save lives.”

They have a wonderful track record when you think they have never lost anyone between the flags.”

Every summer, around 4000 volunteer lifeguards across 74 clubs nationwide give over 200,000 hours of their time patrolling our beaches.

Last summer, over 1300 lives were saved with 60 per cent of these rescues involving the BP sponsored IRBs.