There are only two specialist Police Maritime Units in New Zealand. One is in Auckland and the other in Wellington. They carry out a wide range of activities, including:
- crime and disorder - attending, investigating and reporting offences, apprehending offenders in relation to stolen boats, protest activity on the water and drug recovery operations
- protecting boaties from water-based dangers, crime and reckless behaviour, maintaining security checks on international cruise ships and warships
- search and rescue
- public events - overseeing aquatic events and controlling spectator craft
- increasing national security through joint enforcement patrols with other government agencies such as Customs, Ministry of Primary Industries, Immigration, Department of Conservation, Maritime New Zealand, Ministry of Transport and regional councils
- supporting police on land and transporting police by sea to remote locations
- support for the Police National Dive Squad and Special Tactics Group
- enhancing boat safety through visits from community and school groups
- conducting checks on boat operators on and off the water with a focus on providing assistance, education and enforcement of marine legislation on the water
- maintaining and servicing the police launches and other resources at the unit
- body recovery, medical emergencies and other activities
- training on boat safety for police officers being deployed overseas.
Officers don't spend all their time on the water; they also carry out land-based operations. This tends to be seasonal. There are fewer boaties out in the winter, but operating conditions can be a lot worse than during the summer.
Auckland Police Maritime Unit
The Auckland Maritime Unit is based at the Marine Rescue Centre at Mechanics Bay on Waitemata Harbour. It shares the facility with the Volunteer Coastguard, the Northern Lifeguard Services and the Auckland Harbour Masters Office. It has the Police Air Support Unit and Westpac Trust Rescue Helicopter as neighbours.
The Maritime Unit has a big beat to cover. Its operational area covers approximately 3,700 square kilometres. This includes the greater Hauraki Gulf, the Firth of Thames and associated harbours and inlets. The Gulf has about 200 Islands, including some with permanent populations - Great Barrier Island, Kawau Island, Rakino Island and Waiheke Island.
Within this operational area there are about 5,000 craft on swing moorings, 4,500 craft in the five marinas and 100,000 craft on trailers.
The main vessel used is the twin-hulled Deodar III, sister to the Wellington Maritime Unit's Lady Elizabeth IV. It is 18.5 metres long and was made in Whanganui. This is supported by several smaller inflatable boats.
Wellington Police Maritime Unit
Based in the Old Ferry Building on Waterloo Quay’s service jetty, the Wellington Police Maritime Unit consists of a senior sergeant, sergeant and 10 constables. The Police National Dive Squad shares the same location.
While the duty launch crew is under the control of the duty inspector at the Central Communications Centre, the unit exercises a degree of autonomy. Because it is a specialised unit working in a unique environment, the method and timing of the response is normally left to the judgement of the duty senior launch master in consultation with the officer in charge at the communications centre.
The unit provides 24-hour coverage to the public, based on shifts from 0700hrs-2300hrs weekdays, 0900hrs-2200hrs weekends. After hours response is on a call-out basis, with crew able to be on the water within 15 minutes from receipt of an emergency call. Staff and vessels can be deployed to any part of the country and on a good day Lady Elizabeth IV could be in Christchurch or New Plymouth in five-and-a-haf hours at 70 percent power.
Inflatable boats can also be trailed to any part of the country. The normal operating area encompasses the Marlborough Sounds, Wairarapa Coastline, Kapiti Coast, Tasman Bay, Wanganui, Castle Point and Kaikoura. Most of the tasks carried out by the unit are within Wellington Harbour and Cook Strait.
The unit is normally involved in about 147 search and rescue operations throughout the year.
History of the Wellington Police Maritime Unit
The Wellington Police Maritime unit was established in 1841. One hundred years later, Lady Elizabeth was obtained under wartime regulations to provide security for troop and supply ships. After failing her survey in 1969, she was eventually replaced by Lady Elizabeth II.
Lady Elizabeth 11 served 13 years and 1500 operations, before capsizing in 1986 in a southerly storm. Two lives were tragically lost in the event.
In 1989, Lady Elizabeth III was launched. She was a purpose-built craft designed to survive a roll over. After 13,700 hours of operational work she was replaced by the current launch, Lady Elizabeth IV
The Wellington Police Maritime Unit today
Lady Elizabeth IV was built in Wanganui by Q West Boat Builders. Her design reflects the changing role of the maritime units and Government's desire to have multi-agency vessels that are equipped and manned for close-to-shore patrolling.
The 18.5 metre catamaran enables up to eight staff from different agencies to go to sea for a week. Additionally, she has full coastal survey and carries her own rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB), which has dramatically increased the operational capability of the unit.
The launch is powered by twin 8V2000 M92 MTU diesel engines with twin Hamilton jet 403 units and can travel 450 nautical miles at service speed for 15 hours.
As well as Lady Elizabeth IV, the unit has Police 8, a 12 metre ex-America Cup RHIB, powered by twin 225hp Yamaha outboards, and Police Alpha, a 5.8 metre Naiad powered by twin 115hp Evinrude outboards. These craft are used to run operations for the Police National Dive Squad and can be deployed with the squad anywhere in the country.
Wellington Maritime Unit
Auckland Launch Base
Marine Rescue Centre
3 Solent Street
PO Box 92002
P (09) 357 3470