The 39th National Search and Rescue (NATSAR) Council annual meeting was held in Brisbane in October 2015. The council is comprised of members from AMSA, the Australian Defence Force, and the eight state, territory and federal police services. Observers from the New Zealand SAR Council, New Zealand Police and the Australian National Volunteer Marine SAR Committee also attended the meeting.
The council reviewed its achievements from the previous year, noting the significant work to develop an operational coordination procedure for land SAR incidents implemented on 1 July 2016. Key strategic priorities that were identified for the next two years included an update to the Inter Government Agreement, which facilitates the collaborative arrangement between the council members that enables Australia’s SAR system to effectively respond to those in distress.
The council members also reviewed search and rescue operations within their respective jurisdictions and shared discussion on SAR capabilities, training and qualifications, emerging technologies and future developments. This resulted in improved information sharing and the ability to take a more collaborative approach to strengthen the search and rescue system in both Australia and New Zealand.
Each year, the NATSAR Council recognises an outstanding contribution to search and rescue. In 2015 the award was given to a NSW Marine Rescue lifeboat crew from Port Stephens in recognition of their bravery, selflessness and seamanship in the following incident.
On 21 April, Skipper Michael Smith and his crew - Rob Johnson, Richard Pizzuto, Barney Pinney, Laurie Nolan, Barbara Cole, Peter Merlino and Paul Sullivan - responded to a Mayday call from a yacht, Reef Dragon. The rescue crew battled category two cyclonic winds and three to four metre swell to reach the stricken yacht located in Fame Cove. The two people on board the Reef Dragon reported the yacht was dragging its mooring towards nearby rocks and was beginning to break up, and they were preparing to abandon the vessel in dangerous weather conditions. On arrival at Fame Cove, the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) crew launched its inflatable y-boat with two crew members on board, completing a successful rescue just before the yacht was lost.