Coastguard stalwart earns further accolade
At the Kiwibank Local Heroes ceremony at the Dunedin Art Gallery are, from left, MP Michael Woodhouse, Dunedin City councillor Neville Peat, Laurie Officer and Kiwibank’s Craig Holloway.
Laurie Officer is typical of southern businessman — urbane, intelligent and hardworking but community focused. This is one reason the south is booming. Its movers and shakers are realists and have little time for embellishment.
After years as a leader in the buoyant southern real estate industry, Laurie has now turned his energies to developing his family’s smallholding near Invercargill. However, there is another side to this man.
For many years, Laurie Officer has been involved with boating as a recreation and also is the holder of a PPL with the Southland Aero Club. While many people sail in the deep and picturesque southern lakes, others prefer to test themselves and their craft in the always turbulent and often dangerous waters of Foveaux Strait and other southern stretches.
But these same waters have often seen shipwrecks and fatalities, some of them in lakes that may suddenly change from being totally flat to quite violent and dangerous.
Laurie spent some years as an active and committed member of Coastguard Southland, a voluntary body committed to assisting people having difficulty in the water. Until recently there were two such units in Southland, Coastguard Bluff and Coastguard Riverton. Now, thanks to the efforts of Laurie Officer, they are one.
Laurie’s aim is to promote closer relationships between the units and to support them, especially Bluff, as they embark on a major fundraising campaign for a new 12m vessel. His major contribution to Coastguard has come from his activity at regional and national level.
With his experience with both boats and aircraft, Laurie saw many benefits to be gained by incorporating aircraft in coastguard search and rescue, and he was responsible for the founding of the Coastguard Southland Air Patrol Unit in 1989.
As president, he has guided its development and has worked tirelessly to promote the development of air patrols within the organisation. His strength at a local level has been his liaison with other local units and police. He is trained as an observer and has acted as a crew member during the majority of SAR operations undertaken and as a ground support/radio operator in recent times.
In 2006 Laurie became the regional representative to the Coastguard New Zealand board and has been a strong advocate for encouraging engagement between the many varied views and stakeholders within the organisation.
All of this was accomplished within a busy work schedule and commitment to home and other personal matters and at considerable personal sacrifice in time and money. However, it has not gone unnoticed, and during last September’s Annual National Coastguard Gala Awards, Laurie Officer was named as Air Volunteer of the Year, with the citation noting his “long-term support and passion to Coastguard New Zealand”, as reported in October NZ Aviation News.
However, that was not all. Last November Laurie Officer was one of seven people from Otago and Southland who were recognised as Kiwibank Local Heroes in a ceremony at the Dunedin Art Gallery for their work as volunteers in the community. The awards were presented by Kiwibank national awards manager, Glyn Taylor.
- Report by Peter Owns, photograph by Alan Dove.
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