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Coastguard struggling to stay afloat

Published: 7:43PM Friday December 29, 2006 Source: One News

The unpaid heroes who put their lives at risk to save others in the waters around New Zealand are struggling to stay afloat.

The Coastguard is a voluntary organisation which gets no government funding and relies on donations and membership fees to keep running.

Now it is taking drastic measures to bail itself out and will charge $200 an hour to non-members who use the service.

The northern region has 1000 volunteer coastguards patrolling between Raglan and Cape Reinga this summer and although their time is given freely rescues comes at a cost.

Northern manager James Lacey says the request for a donation of $200 an hour will help cover the cost of the fuel and help run the vessels.

As a charitable organisation the Coastguard relies on an annual membership fee but still assists boaties who are not coastguard members. Just this month Auckland Coastguard has attended over 250 incidents.

"They're happy to offer everything they own when you go to rescue them at three in the morning. But when it comes to the crunch over the last few years we've had quite a few people who haven't been forward in helping out with donations," says Lacey.

And he is reminding boaties to be prepared because "an emergency can happen at any time".