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NZ-RT4 Rescue Emergency Support Team (Palmerston North)

Key contacts
Team Manager: Graeme McIntyre 06 356 8199 or 027 478 6079
All Correspondence: C/o Emergency Management PNCC, Private Bag 11034, Palmerston North
Email: rest@pncc.govt.nz

Background
The Rescue Emergency Support Team (REST) has been registered as a NZ Response Team since 2004. This registration recognises the team’s ability to provide emergency response anywhere within New Zealand if requested by an affected region. The team, who are all volunteers, also provide support to emergency services within the Manawatu region for high angle rope rescue, flood and storm response, and swift water rescue. They also provide support to Palmerston North’s Rural Fire Team and continue to maintain a light Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capability.

REST operates two shifts and team members are activated by a paging system via Palmerston North City Council, or directly through the emergency services communication centres. As a support agency, REST responds from its base within 20 minutes with a complete technical rope and swift water rescue capability (NFPA 1670 Technician level). The team trains weekly and additional training takes place on weekends to ensure skills are maintained at a high level of readiness. They also attend Field Days and emergency services displays to promote the public Get Ready, Get Thru message. The team also provides assistance at other community events, such as the annual food bank drive.

The team has twice been a finalist in the CDEM Organisation of the Year award and has been the recipient of the Operational Excellence award; as well as winning a number of rescue competition trophies and Team Leader awards.

History
Palmerston North City Council formed its first rescue team in the 1970’s to provide an initial response during regional emergencies. Though the team’s history is somewhat unclear, the team was closely involved with the USAR programme since the establishment of Task Force 1 in 1995.

The team was mobilised during the 1988 Manawatu Floods to assist with evacuations and flood control. More than 1200 people were evacuated from their homes during the three days the local declaration was in force.
In 2000 the Emergency Services section of the Palmerston North City Council changed the team's role to respond to the identified hazards in the Manawatu area. The team was renamed to the Rescue Emergency Support Team.

In 2004 the team was mobilised during flooding in Manawatu, and provided support in establishing the central distribution centre for donated goods. The distribution centre remained in operation for several months and was the largest of its kind in New Zealand history. Later in 2004 while the team was doing USAR training, they heard and witnessed a young boy drown in the Manawatu River. The team assisted Police with a river search for the body using newly trained swift water rescue skills. This was the first of what has become a long list of operations assisting Palmerston North Police Search and Rescue.

In 2005 the team assisted Whakatane District Council during major flooding. REST and the Taupo Civil Defence Emergency Response Team worked together to recovery the body of a 76 year old woman who died three days earlier in an unstable landslide.

During 2007 the teams’ Rescue Manager was sponsored by Hydro Response and the Emergency Management Academy of NZ to attend the Flood-Fighters conference at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. This was followed by eight days researching UK methodologies relating to flood planning, response and recovery in Hereford and Worcester, Telford, Iron Bridge, Wales and London. Later the same year he presented at the 7th Annual Emergency Management Conference on New Zealand’s Flood Response Capability.

In 2008 two members of the team responded with hydro response to Charleville, Australia at the request of Emergency Management Queensland. They spend five days during which time they erected flood protection systems which ensured the town stayed dry. The team received praise from Queensland’s Minister of Emergency Management and from the Australian Prime Minster, for their dedication and response.
The team continues to provide response to emergencies within Manawatu region and has been involved in a number of events that have gained national attention.