Months of plotting, planning ( and last minute panic!) came to fruition with the National LandSAR conference held in Dunedin mid November. The three guest speakers travelled from North America and provided an excellent balance of practical, academic and “bureaucratic” concepts of SAR in their respective areas.
Registrants were offered bed and breakfast accommodation at one of the University Halls of Residence, which gave opportunity for catching up with old friends and meeting new ones – no doubt the 4 remaining students in residence are still wondering what was happening! The kitchen staff reported that it was a delight to feed people with “such healthy appetites” – it appears that many of their conference groups are less robust academic types…..
The option of a day of workshops on Friday was taken up by 130 registrants, with a total of 199 attending the conference itself on Saturday and Sunday.
Concurrent workshops were presented over the day, medical advisors having a dedicated programme throughout, but other participants being offered a choice of Tracking ( New Advances), Rescue Belay, an Information Management working group, and Search Dog presentation. Two of the guest speakers also presented workshops, with Bob Koester discussing Advances in Search as relating to his research of lost person behaviour, and Don Webster (provincial SAR coordinator for Ontario, Canada) sharing his experience in “Lost in Canada!”.
Roscoe Tait formally opened the conference, with the opening address from NZ Police Commissioner Howard Broad prior to commencement of the formal programme. Keynote addresses were in the main Lecture Theatre to all registrants, followed by concurrent presentations to smaller groups. Presenters from SARINZ, police, DOC and Youth SAR covered practical and theoretical topics such as Remote Search Assistance, Reflex Tasking, Snow Anchors, Anchor Rigging, Working with Volunteers, and an overview of the pilot youth SAR group.
Saturday night saw 190 registrants and partners attending the conference dinner, with dinner “piped” in by the bagpipes, and guest speakers magnificently attired to participate in the haggis ceremony and ode to the haggis before the meal. Educating Don Webster to what a Scot wears under his kilt caused some anxiety to our guest speaker, but his kilt gave Jean Murray the opportunity to open her address by reminding us that, though she is a self acclaimed bureaucrat with a hard act to follow after Don Webster’s presentation, her legs were better than his!
Along with a stunning Swazi beanie, chocolate from Cadbury’s, the conference shirt, Mainland cheeses and a variety of gifts from Dunedin sponsors, a list of “consenting” registrants was included in each pack, so that registrants will be able to track down new contacts and continue the invaluable networking process in the coming months.
The Dunedin Committee would like to recognise sponsorship received in goods and payment from many sources, particularly NZ Lottery Grants Board who granted substantial funds in order that we could subsidise volunteers who incurred personal cost in travelling to conference. They had never received an application of this nature before and we are extremely grateful for their consideration and support of volunteers in this way.