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Careers in search and rescue

As of 30 June 2023, there are 11,095 people directly involved in the search and rescue sector in New Zealand - 89 percent of whom are volunteers. 

There are a variety of different opportunities for volunteer and paid employment in the sector.  

SAR volunteers

Unpaid roles can be found within the volunteer agencies, who supply the bulk of the people in the sector. 

As a volunteer you could be out searching rugged terrain or urban areas for a missing person, or taking part in a shoreline search from a rescue boat. You could be part of the Incident Management Team for a search, working out where to place search teams or helping with logistics. You could be answering radio calls and passing information on to where it needs to go. You could be involved in training, administration, funding or governance. 

You don’t need to be exceptionally fit or strong to volunteer for search and rescue – there are roles to suit everyone’s capabilities. 

Please contact one of the volunteer agencies listed below if you would like to volunteer for search and rescue:  

Paid roles in SAR

Current vacancies

There are no current vacancies that NZSAR is aware of.


Possible opportunities

Please contact the relevant agencies below to enquire about paid roles. 


Department of Conservation

Professional mountain guides are hired as part of the only full-time SAR team in New Zealand, which is based at Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. This team is called the Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team (AMCART).

Visit the Department of Conservation website, or read an article on 'Climate Change and SAR' featuring AMCART.



Officers can apply to become a SAR Squad member, which is a part time role among normal policing duties.

Visit the Police website to learn more.

You can also or read an interview with Senior Constable Fiona Read, from the Manawatu Police SAR Squad, or hear from Senior Constable Conrad Smith, the SAR coordinator for the Whanganui/ Ruapehu area on page 15 of our NZSAR Annual Report.


Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ)

RCCNZ is based in Lower Hutt, and employs SAR Officers who coordinate aviation and maritime searches, and respond to distress beacon activations in New Zealand.

Visit the website for Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand or read an article about a Day in the Life of a SAR Officer.

All RCCNZ staff are employees of Maritime New Zealand.


New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF)

NZDF employees sometimes participate in SAR operations and training exercises, usually with helicopter or maritime patrol aircraft.

Visit the New Zealand Defence Force website, or read an interview with Flight Lieutenant Nicole Brooke, NZDF Helicopter Pilot


Helicopter crews

Pilots, medics, winch operators and support staff contribute to SAR operations. Below are some of the organisations who flew SAR missions in 2022-23 and their home bases:

  • Northern Rescue Helicopters (Northland)
  • Auckland Rescue Helicopters (Auckland)
  • Waikato Rescue Helicopter (Hamilton)
  • Aerocool Rescue Helicopter (Bay of Plenty)
  • Greenlea Rescue Helicopter (Taupo)
  • Grassroots Trust Rescue Helicopter (Palmerston North)
  • Life Flight (Wellington)
  • GCH Aviation (Nelson, West Coast, Christchurch)
  • Otago Rescue Helicopter (Dunedin / Queenstown)
  • Southern Lakes Helicopters (Te Anau)


Support roles in the volunteer agencies

Each of the volunteer agencies listed under 'SAR Volunteers' have paid staff who provide a range of support functions to aid the volunteers.  Contact the agencies directly to enquire. 

Need to report someone lost or missing? call 111 - Ask for police