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Finding Funding

Finding FundingFINDING FUNDING: Northland Land Search and Rescue members Kevin Bell, left, and Jenny Calder have had to search high and low for funding, but Whangarei Lions president Merv Williams, right helped by funding two GPS mapping systems. Their jackets were funded by Pub Charities.

Difficult rescues from caves, cliffs, dense bush and steep terrain is no problem for Northland Land Search and Rescue (LSAR).

What is a problem for the volunteers is getting acknowledgement and funding, because many people think they are part of the police.

Northland LSAR works in partnership with the police, and is available for the police for land-based searches, says assistant advisor Kevin Bell.

It also provides specialist caving and cliff-top equipment and expertise.

But a lot of this equipment is funded by the 35 volunteer members, he says, as the group gets no financial backing from the police.

Northland LSAR recently received funding from Whangarei Lions for two GPS mapping systems, and Pub Charities for fleeces and waterproof jackets that breathe.

But the group hopes more organisations will help fund specialist gear.

The volunteers make 10 to 30 land-based rescues a year, searching for lost people, rescuing people hurt in difficult terrain or doing difficult cliff or cave rescues.

Jenny Calder decided to join LSAR after being carried from the bush with a suspected broken leg.

She has been involved for 11 years and is the secretary for LSAR Region One, which covers an area from the Bombay hills to Cape Reinga, and a committee member of Northland LSAR.

Jenny says she loves the challenges of being a volunteer LSAR member.

“There is the camaraderie within the group, the skills and experience you gain, and at the end of the day the best thing to see is a good result.

“When you take the person back to their family you just can’t describe the look on their faces.”

Most members have a love of the outdoors and a desire to help people, she says.

Jenny says one of the hardest jobs she did was the search for Coral Burrows, the six-year-old girl murdered by her stepfather Steve Williams in Featherston in 2003.

“It was one of the longest and hardest searches with intense media interest,” she says.

The group tries to make searches positive, she says, even if the end result is delivering news of a body to a family, at least the family can have closure.

Kevin says a few months ago Northland LSAR was involved in a search in Whangarei’s Western Hills for a man who was taking his dog for a run.

He deviated off the track and became lost, spending part of the night in the bush in just light running gear, says Kevin.

The story had a happy ending, however, as the man was found about 1am.

Kevin says the two GPS systems donated by Whangarei Lions, which add to four already funded by Pub Charities, help rescuers find their way at night and can track where they have been.

Jenny says it can cost between $5000 and $7000 to fit a member out in specialist gear.

Items such as a torch can cost up to $200 and these costs often come out of the members’ pockets, she says.

Northland Land Search and Rescue is a voluntary organisation, operating since 1935, that receives no government funding.

Anyone who wishes to help with sponsorship or donations can contact Jenny Calder on 430 4230, ext 8864 or 021 294 7617.