Whangarei Harbour the focus of emergency services exercise

29 Mar 2016, 1:22 PM

Emergency services will converge by sea and air on Whangarei Harbour near Onerahi on Saturday 02 April for the final exercise in a four-week training programme for young people.

Fifteen young people nominated from within the Bream Bay and surrounding communities have been building hands-on emergency services skills through the national Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme.

The programme is designed to strengthen the connection between young people and their communities and is funded by the Ministries of Youth Development and Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

So far the young people have experienced orientation days working with NZ Fire and Rural Fire, Ruakaka Surf Lifesaving, Coastguard, NZ Police, St John Ambulance and NZ Red Cross.

Saturday's exercise will be the highlight of the programme, says Shona Morgan, spokesperson for Northland's YES co-ordinating work group.

The exercise scenario will see participants confronted with victims in the water and missing and injured people on land, as well as a fire.

The exercise will involve a total of about 75 people, with contributing agencies including NZ Police, NZ Fire Service, Rural Fire, Ruakaka Surf Lifesaving, St John Ambulance, NZ Red Cross, Whangarei Coastguard, the NEST helicopter and a private Skyworks helicopter, and the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

"Members of the public should be aware that there will be helicopters in the air, boats on the water and smoke, all of which may be visible from on and around the harbour," Ms Morgan said. "There are also likely to be ambulances and fire appliances at the Onerahi boat ramp."

Ms Morgan says the programme participants will be graduating the following week, in a formal ceremony to which their parents have also been invited.

They will be offered the opportunity to volunteer for two months with the emergency service of their choice.

Ms Morgan says as well as encouraging a more active participation in their local communities, the programme helps participants develop a number of useful practical skills.

"For some it will also be a crucial initial step in what could eventually become further involvement in the emergency services field, either as a volunteer or as part of a paid career. It also enables a greater appreciation from the communities themselves about the value and contribution their young people can make."