• Conference Secretariat 07 5502 2068
  • sar@anzdmc.com.au

The 4th annual Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference will be held on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 at the Star Gold Coast. 

Mr Nick Mulcahy, Coastal Scientist, Coastal Research Ltd joins us at the Conference to present ‘Evidence-based provision of supervision and surveillance along the New Zealand coastline’.


Mr Nick Mulcahy

Water safety organisations, emergency services, and local and central government authorities spend considerable human and financial resources providing supervision, surveillance, and emergency response along the New Zealand coastline. To ensure the greatest return from this considerable investment, a risk-based approach incorporating a surf lifeguard supervision model has been developed to determine the supervision requirements for specific sites.

The surf lifeguard supervision model is based on the analysis of data from over 52,000 patrols delivered at 91 beaches over 10 years. The model uses mathematical relationships established between beach morphology, wave energy, water use, and the probability of rescue to determine supervision requirements. Critical thresholds are also calculated to determine the lower limit at which a service could be considered a cost-effective risk management strategy.

In addition, the analysis of fatal and non-fatal incident statistics, user demographics, water user competencies, and site activities assists in determining the most effective forms of supervision and/or surveillance for a site. This may be different to a traditional surf lifeguarding service, and could lead to roles being tailored to meet site-specific needs, with responsibilities potentially spanning multiple organisations. This can ensure that the risks to a wide range of water users, i.e. swimmers, surfers, rock fishers, paddle craft, sail craft, and vessel operators, are considered and managed effectively.

This evidence-based approach represents a significant change in the way supervision and surveillance requirements are determined along the New Zealand coastline, and the implementation of the recommendations would bring a number of organisational, logistical, and political challenges. However, these changes are nonetheless considered essential to ensure the risk of drowning and injury on the New Zealand coastline is reduced as far as practicable.


Nick Mulcahy is the Director of Coastal Research Ltd, Aquatic Risk Manager at Surf Life Saving New Zealand, and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Nick develops, implements, and evaluates risk management projects in aquatic environments throughout New Zealand. He has a background in physical and social sciences, and completed his Master of Science (Honours) at Victoria University of Wellington. Nick is an active surf lifeguard, manages surf lifeguarding services at Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club, contributes to decision making on regional and national levels, and is New Zealand’s representative on the International Lifesaving Federation’s Rescue Commission.

For information on the upcoming 2018 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference please visit the conference website.




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