A Tauranga youth search and rescue training programme has expanded to Auckland to inspire a new generation of backcountry life-savers.
Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR) general manager Steve Campbell said it was created to combat an aging volunteer base: most Land Search and Rescue volunteers were over 40 and predominantly male.
By training with high school students, YSAR aimed to create more diversity within the organisation as students graduated to join LandSAR.
He said the programme had done extremely well in the Bay of Plenty region – over 200 students had enrolled since it began in 2009.
Now YSAR is expanding to Auckland with a goal to develop a national programme, run by every LandSAR branch in the country. Campbell has also been approached by search and rescue services in Canada, Australia and Singapore, who are keen to replicate the YSAR model.
Campbell said the programme provides “long-term benefits to search and rescue and civil defence emergency management by providing highly skilled young people to respond to emergency and disaster situations”.
The three-year programme is for teenagers aged from 14-18. Each student receives 600 hours of training, including weekly sessions and eight weekend exercises a year, culminating with one five-day simulation of an emergency situation. Students learn skills in navigation, bushcraft, leadership and organisational techniques and how to manage risks.
Katherine Dyer joined YSAR as a 16-year-old in 2009 and has now joined Tauranga LandSAR.
“I grew hugely in self-confidence, gained the ability to look after myself and others in the outdoors and the confidence to plan and go on adventures,” Dyer said.