Posted on 20 December 2023
A new radio repeater on Tākaka Hill will provide a crucial communications link in Land Search and Rescue operations across the region. With support from NBS, the repeater was installed on the hill in time for the summer season, which is typically busier as more people venture into the region’s great outdoors.
Nelson Land Search and Rescue communications officer, Dylan Smart, said the old VHF radio repeater on Tākaka Hill had been problematic for the past five years as it neared the end of its life, with intermittent faults and low-quality audio.
“Having instant two-way communication about field conditions, potential clues, and information about the missing person was essential during a search.”
“The new repeater provides secure, real-time communication between field teams with portable radios and a search and rescue base set up in Nelson, Motueka or Golden Bay during an operation.”, Smart said.
“Satellite communication devices were also part of search teams’ toolkits, but messages could be delayed by the timing of satellite passes, or the terrain. There are plans to install a repeater on Mount Burnett, near Collingwood, to further boost the radio network, which included a repeater in the Richmond Hills, he continued.
NBS Community Engagement Manager Nic Foster said its investment in the new repeater highlights the importance of the equipment to the volunteer teams and the safety of those venturing into the backcountry. “It also recognises the dedication of the many volunteers in our region who give their time to ensure the safety of those enjoying our fabulous outdoors”, Foster said.
Land Search and Rescue Nelson chairperson Tobias Schmidt said it was one of four groups in Nelson Bays, and 63 nationally. In 2022/23, 456 operations were carried out across the country.
The Nelson group has around 70 professionally trained volunteers. Members hold monthly training sessions, attend weekend courses with other groups, and take part in an annual police search and rescue exercises.
Schmidt said the Nelson group was outgrowing its current operations base and are keen to hear from anyone with a suitable space it could use until it finds a more permanent home.
He said ideally the group would train, deploy and co-ordinate operations from a base that was set up ready for use.
“The location of a new base ideally will have good access with off-road parking, in a low hazard (ie, flooding) area, and good VHF communications throughout the region.”