Brooding Beauty not always benign

Lake Taupo - a beautiful body of water backdropped by the central volcanoes - can also be a monster, changing mood rapidly and proving problematic for some who haven’t read  the signs or listened to the forecasts.

What many visitors to Lake Taupo do not realise is how quickly the lake can cut up.

Being deep, it can produce some decent waves in a good southerly, making it very awkward for canoeists or  small boats.

The distances involved on the lake are also visually deceptive.

What looks like a short trip is often twice the distance.

IN fact, the lake is so large that Taupo Coastguard looks after the northern half and Turangi Coastguard the southern half.

Staying alertFor the record, it is 616 sq km of freshwater lake and 193 km of shoreline, and with water temperatures averaging from 10-23 degrees, there is plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong.

This is where the Lake Taupo Coastguard comes into their own, patrolling and rescuing those who get into trouble.

Summer holidays are, of course, full alert time for the Coastguard.

The town fills up with holidaymakers - many of them intent on enjoying the lake to its fullest.

Even in the quiet periods, the volunteers mount a three-watch system with six-man crews on a week-on, two week-off roster.

Life is seldom dull for the 2014 Coastguard ‘Unit of the Year’.

President Mike McSherry says the general standard of behaviour is good around the lake, but people - mainly youngsters - do take unnecessary risks.

“A lot of work goes into assisting people who get basic things wrong, like running out of petrol,” says Mike.

“Jet skis are the most prevalent craft to break down.

”Local upskillingThe Taupo Coastguard was formed in 1984 and is a 24/7 operation.

The commitment includes constant upskilling, and in 2017, the Taupo unit trained for 2290 hours.

In addition, Coastguard takes every opportunity it gets to push water safety at local fairs and community events.

Unfortunately, Coastguard is yet to be taken under the wing of a national emergency body that can fully fund it, so the Taupo volunteers have subscriptions from over 1300 members, sponsorships of various types, and the Coastguard New Zealand annual lottery proceeds are shared around.

Youth life-skillsThe current crew has over 300 assists to its credit, with 450 people rescued - many of whom may not have made it home without their help.

“Last year was a great year,” says Mike.

The Lake Taupo Coastguard Cadet programme is a first for Coastguard, and run by one of the volunteers who is also a high school teacher.

The project is about teaching youth life-skills around boating, water safety and what volunteering in your local community looks like.

So far, five students have completed their cadetship with another 15 on track to finish this year.

Coastguard Taupo has 36 volunteers at present - 18 of them fully qualified for water rescue.

The 36 volunteers cover both land and water roles and put in over 70,000 hours per year including being on-call, regular weekly training to stay on top of search and rescue skills, cleaning and repairing equipment, stocking the boat, looking after the day-to-day administration and memberships, maintaining buildings and gardens, communications, fundraising and attending community groups to teach good water skills.

Coastguard is always recruiting, so anyone who uses the lake on the regular basis and wants to put something back, is encouraged to give Mike McSherry a call.


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