The Wanaka Lakes Coastguard’s new marine rescue centre and rescue boat, Waiariki, are ready for business.
The building and boat were blessed in a cheerful but reflective ceremony at Eely Point in Wanaka on Sunday.
Members were excited about the much-improved technology and facilities they could use to save lives, but also remembered those who had not survived.
The ceremony was also a thank you to the former rescue tender, Wanaka Lakes Rescue, which had an unexpected swan song last week, during the retrieval of the body of a missing Korean tourist from Roys Bay.
Waiariki could not be used in that operation because it had not been fully commissioned.
Among the many who spoke at the ceremony was Minaret Station farmer Jonathan Wallis, whose brother Matthew died when his helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka at Waiariki (Stevenson’s Arm) in July 2018.
‘‘Lake Wanaka holds the souls of those unlucky, the unfortunate ones who have drowned in the lake or died in the lake, and we should never forget that,’’ he said.
‘‘But it also holds the souls of the people who have been saved from the lake and it holds the souls of people who use it.
‘‘I don’t dwell on the fact my brother died in Stevenson’s Arm, which is the name of the boat, but I am tremendously grateful that the reason why we got him back is because of the people here today, and I know other families feel the same,’’ Mr Wallis said.
Upoko runaka (tribal leader) of Moeraki David Higgins led the blessing ceremony and karakia for Waiariki.
Anglican minister Damon Plimmer also led prayers and acknowledged the Maori and Scottish seafarers who weathered great gales and storms in small boats.
New Zealand Coastguard chief executive Callum Gilliespie acknowledged the ceremony was overshadowed by last week’s death.
He noted 90 people had died in the water in New Zealand last year and said Coastguard was committed to working with other organisations on water safety education.
Wanaka Lakes Coastguard president Jonathan Walmisley and his team had put a vast amount of effort into getting a new rescue centre and boat and should be proud of their work, Mr Gilliespie said.
The former rescue tender has been sold to the Sutton family of Albert Town.
Mr Higgins also blessed the old boat and restored its previous name, Tohora, which means southern right whale in te reo.
Tohora did more than 160 official operations, bringing 230 people to safety, as well as returning those who did not survive to their families.