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Marine rescue at Middle Harbour: saving lives on the water

Think local

For the past nearly 20 years, former Mosman councillor Tony Whybrow has been involved in one of NSW’s most vital volunteer organisations, Marine Rescue NSW, based at Middle Harbour.

For Mr Whybrow, who stepped down from the role of commander in 2013 after five years at the helm, it's been a chance to put something back into the community, helping to save lives and get involved in community and volunteer events.

He still works as a very involved volunteer rescuer.

The organisation is the accredited volunteer marine rescue service of NSW and has the responsibilities of boating safety education, marine radio communications, and emergency search and rescue.

In 2013 to 2014, Marine Rescue provided emergency assistance to more than 3,000 boats, which were carrying more than 7,600 men, women and children who met with some kind of trouble in the water. A quarter of these were serious, life-threatening emergencies.

There are more than 3,300 volunteer members at 45 bases along the NSW coast, including at Middle Harbour.

In late 2009, after pressure for the NSW government to upgrade the service, three separate organisations were merged into one - the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and the Volunteer Rescue Association.

Taking over the reigns from Mr Whybrow as commander at the Middle Harbour base is Peter Nott. Like his predecessor, although he has another full-time job, his role as commander often requires another 40 hours of volunteer work, organisation and strategy.

"I think we are a little bit like air-traffic control or the NRMA of the harbor," Mr Nott tells North Shore Living.

“There are two streams in the rescue boat organisation – a radio stream, where people contact for emergency assistance,

And a rescue boat base. In Mosman, we are one of the rescue boat bases.

"We have up to 100 members who are on call seven days a week. We also have watches every weekend and on public holidays."

The Marine Rescue is called to a variety of boating problems, including boats in danger of sinking and medical emergencies.

Mr Nott savs the role is incrediblv diverse and they respond to the situation they get called to. "You really never know when you start a shift what is going to happen," he says.

 Lyndie Powell, who is another Mosman Marine Rescue member, has been with the volunteer organisation for the past five years. She has been sailing since she was a child and says it’s great to get involved not only in rescue situations, but also with other community and charity events, including New Year’s Eve and Australia Day.

"It’s certainly a great way of giving back to the community.It’s hard work - we need to have solid skills in first aid, sea survival, firefighting and need to have a radio and boat licence," she confirms. North Shore MP Jillian Skinner is patron of the NSW Marine Rescue’s Mosman base. "Being part of a boating family, I’m well aware of the tremendously important job these volunteers do when people are in distress at sea. They dedicate many hours to training and making themselves available so there is always a full roster of people to help,” she tells North Shore Living.

"Sometimes it might only be a boat that needs a straightforward tow to shore. But at other times it might be a full blown rescue - plucking people in perilous situations far from the shore. They do a fantastic job," she says.

Mrs Skinner says she has secured extra funding of $130,000 in community grants for an upgrade at the marina.

Funding is, however, a constant worry for the organisation, which only receives a third of it’s more than $50,000 costs from the state government budget.

Commander Nott says there is always pressure surrounding volunteer fundraising. “There are only so many sausage sizzles you can have." he says.

The creation of the new single volunteer marine rescue organisation In 2010 has delivered a great improvement to safety in recreational boating In NSW, according to the organisation.

However, the survival of Marine Rescue is going to require dollars, solid patronage and sponsorship in the future.”

"Our volunteers love what they do and Marine Rescue is based on the goodwill of people - i think it's fantastic, but we just need more funds, ‘says Mr Nott.


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