The origins of the Coastguard Hibiscus unit date all the way back to 1978, when the Hibiscus Coast Boating Club was required to provide “sea rescue services” as a condition of the site lease for their premises at Stanmore Bay Reserve. Members’ private vessels were used to provide these services until 1998, when the club purchased a dedicated rescue vessel, Red Knight, from the Auckland Volunteer Coastguard. Then, due to ever-increasing demands on club members to maintain the rescue service, an independent trust (the Hibiscus Sea Rescue Trust) was formed in 2000 to assume full responsibility for rescue and associated services.
The purpose of the Trust was to raise and administer funds for the following activities:
- The operation of a marine search and rescue service (at that time under a Memorandum of Understanding with Auckland Coastguard Inc.)
- Provision of water safety education
- Prevention of death, injury or accident at sea, and
- Provision of seamanship education and training.
In 2001, following a search for suitable locations for a Rescue Centre, the Trust was offered berthing facilities and a building site at Gulf Harbour Marina. These would give the Trust the potential to operate search and rescue services 24/7 in all tidal and weather conditions. The Trust also recognized that the rescues that had been conducted by Red Knight and her crews were evenly spread around the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, so the decision was made to move their operational base to Gulf Harbour Marina. This move enabled the unit to respond to many more requests than was possible when operating from Stanmore Bay Reserve. In 2003, the Trust was gifted a former Team New Zealand Rayglass Protector, which underwent an extensive refit to comply with Coastguard and Maritime Safety Authority survey requirements as a dedicated rescue vessel. This vessel entered service as Hibiscus Rescue One in January 2004, replacing the ageing Red Knight.
At that time, sea rescue services were still being performed by members of the Hibiscus Coast Boating Club under a Memorandum of Understanding with Auckland Coastguard Inc. In preparation for a formal application to become affiliated members of Coastguard NZ, Hibiscus Sea Rescue Inc., an Incorporated Society, was formed in December 2005. The Society’s name was changed to Coastguard Hibiscus Inc. in 2007. Today, the Society and the Trust work closely together, the former operating the rescue vessels and the latter conducting fundraising activities for operational and equipment costs. These activities led to purchase of a Sealegs™ RIB (Hibiscus Rescue Two) in 2009 and the construction of the boatshed at Stanmore Bay Reserve where it operates from. In 2012, the original Hibiscus Rescue One was retired from service and replaced with a Naiad 9.5 m RIB. The original Hibiscus Rescue Two was also replaced in August 2014 with a new Sealegs™ 7.7m RIB. These two vessels and their crews continue to provide search and rescue services throughout the Hauraki Gulf, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.