All posts by Teresa Harvey

Rock Rescue at Karekare/Mercer Bay, 30 June 2020

Rock Rescue at Karekare/Mercer Bay

At 2.18pm on Tuesday 30th June 2020 lifeguards from Karekare, Piha and United were tasked by police to respond to a group of hikers trapped on the rocks in the Mercer Bay area.  Off duty Volunteer lifeguards responded from multiple locations, liaising with police and Surf lifesaving supervisors while in route to gather more information.  As Karekare Surf Club is currently in the early stages of rebuilding the members responded to temporary shipping containers which are being used as gear storage. Lifeguards then regrouped on the beach with two IRB’s (inflatable rescue boats) after crossing the still flooded stream negotiating difficult beach access.

On reaching the north end of the beach lifeguards assessed the beach conditions with 3m plus surf and incoming tide and difficult conditions.  Eagle the Police helicopter then arrived, landing on the beach to pick up senior lifeguard Shawn Wanden-Hannay to pinpoint the location of the hikers trapped on the rocks, and assess the risk conditions. By this stage two of the hikers had managed to return to Mercer Bay, leaving two patients in their 50’s trapped on the rocks.  After locating two people on the rocks between Karekare and Mercer bay Shawn Wanden-Hannay was returned to the beach and discussed rescue options with other team members.

An IRB crewed by Shawn Wanden-Hannay and Sam Turbott was launched and made their way through the difficult surf to assess rescue options from the water.  They returned to the beach and picked up lifeguard John Ocean Taylor.  A second IRB was ready to respond on the beach and lifeguards were stationed on the North rocks; Eagle continued to circle monitoring the patients.  The IRB then dropped Sam Turbott into the surf out to sea from the patients- Sam then swam into the rocks and climbed around to the patients.  Extensive communications took place establishing that walking the patients out was not an option, the rock location and worsening surf conditions then ruled out IRB rescue. The Eagle helicopter made a number of attempts to land on a ledge near the patients, but the steep cliff edges, strong winds and huge surf made this impossible.

Land SAR and Westpac helicopter were requested, giving land and air rescue options;  waiting out the incoming tide was also considered.  Just after 5pm Westpac rescue arrived on scene and utilizing the local knowledge of Westpac paramedic/crewman and Karekare Lifeguard Stefan Gabor the two patients and lifeguard Sam were able to be winched into the helicopter and then returned to Karekare.  Both patients were cold but otherwise uninjured and were grateful to have been rescued.

This rescued demonstrated the excellent skills of the Lifeguards, Eagle and Westpac helicopter crews in extremely difficult conditions and thankfully resulted in the rescue of two patients without injury.  It also demonstrated the extremely challenging, unpredictable and dangerous conditions that surround undertaking any activity in the Mercer Bay area and serves as a warning to others to stick to the marked tracks. Note:  Mercer Bay can only be accessed by a dangerous unmarked and unadvised route or in rare surf and tide conditions from Karekare.

Our Club are extremely proud of our lifeguards and all the other clubs and agencies involved in this very successful and dramatic rescue.

Written by Bex Walton-Hannay

What’s been happening…

16 June 2020


Dawn on Saturday 13 June saw Karekare Valley filled with mist as the clouds swirled around the lowlands, a dedicated group of members, friends and guests joined the Karekare Surf Lifesaving Club in the last goodbye to the clubhouse that had served them and the community for the past 56 years.  

Warahe,  Linda and Whanau representing Kawerau Maki led the procession down the newly formed gravel path to the site where over 200 years ago the Pa stood on the Watchman and surrounding hills.  We acknowledged the Maki for allowing us to build on this sacred site again.  Many people have come on this journey with the club over the past 20 years to make this project a reality, some of those have now moved on but everyone involved holds a special part of this building.

We thank and acknowledge our special guests from Auckland Council and the local Board, Linda Cooper, Greg Presland, Mark Allen, Shane Henderson and Sandra Coney.  Also our soon to be  local MP for New Lynn Deborah Russell.  Along with past Council member Penny Hulst and Ross Clow who have been great friends and supporters of our project over the decades.  Peter Brown also presented Piha Surf Lifesaving Club and Denis Black wearing two hats as a Piha man himself, but Denis has kindly guarantor-ed a bank loan for the club if needed at the end of the project.  Also Matt Williams was in attendance from Surf Lifesaving Northern Region and many of our life members.  Thank you to Richard Priest for attending who was has been involved in the architectural concepts of our new building since it’s original conception.

The blessing of the building was commenorated with a haka and the future mokopuna of the club held photos of those that have served the club in the 85 years previous.  As the rainy mist drizzled on the group, it was like the tears of Karekare weeping for loss of the much beloved building that had seen many great celebrations and saved so many lives.  Family members of legendary  past and present members were honoured and acknowledged with so many great families over the years giving so much – some of those 3 – 4 generations have now been involved in the club.  Karel and Andy spoke on behalf of the club and acknowledged those that have contributed to the project over it’s long conception.  

The morning concluded with damp people returning to the Harvey household on Watchmans Road to indulge in some delicious croissants and danishes after a wet morning and to hear some of the great stories of old and a chance for all to speak.   Thank you to Sir Bob and Lady Barbara for hosting the 75 guests who braved the winter morning to say their last goodbyes.  

May 2020

Work has started on the Karekare rebuild project now that we have moved to Level 3. Sadly the project was slightly delayed in starting due to the Covid 19 Pandemic that hit the world. After New Zealand took drastic action to shut down our economy it meant the Karekare Clubhouse project also was delayed.

Exciting news though when on Monday May 11th the project got underway led by the team from Cassidy Construction. To date the team has mobilised and setup the site in part of the grass car park with all the fencing, hazard signage and other Health & Safety matters. 
 Commencement of construction for the access road to the first bridge and excavations and placing of compacted hardfill for bridge foundations was laid down.

Week 2 was completion of the hardfill up to the bridge and formwork for the bridge foundations.  Reinforcing steel and concrete to foundations was placed for the approach ramps and the steel beams were lifted into place.  Fencing panels were installed around the heritage railway tracks to preserve them.  

In the midst of all the work in the second week the Construction Team from Cassidy’s also assisted 6 members of Karekare Surf Club callout squad with a rescue on the beach.  Two members of the Cassidy’s team worked throughout the rescue supporting our team in setting up the IRB, and were on standby throughout the resuscitation process and assisting where need be.   Special thanks to Ben and Fasa.  This is what our project is all about, building a purpose built facility on one of New Zealand’s most iconic but dangerous beaches to preserve life.  We are excited to share the development of the building as it unfolds over the next 18 months.