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New Zealand volunteer presents friendship pennant to RNLI Lerwick

Lifeboats News Release

A coastguard volunteer from New Zealand with Shetland connections has presented a pennant recognising the friendship between his homeland search and rescue organisation and RNLI Lerwick.

RNLI/Bob Kerr

Len Webb (second from left) presenting a framed Coastguard NZ pennant to Coxswain Stephen Manson (centre), with crew members of RNLI Lerwick Lifeboat. (L to R) Craig Webb, Peter Kerr, Gareth Geddes, John Drummond and John Henderson.
Len Webb lives in Whangarei, around 90 miles north of Auckland on the north island of New Zealand. He’s been in Shetland for the last three months visiting his son Craig Webb, who is a crew member on Lerwick Lifeboat.

Len is a volunteer with Coastguard Whangarei, a volunteer-led maritime search and rescue unit and part of the Royal New Zealand Coastguard, a national charity with a mission to saves lives at sea.

Coastguard Whangarei is one of around 60 similar units around the New Zealand coastline and operates a 10-metre search and rescue vessel to respond to any maritime incidents in their area.

Like the RNLI, the foundations of the Royal New Zealand Coastguard date back to the 19th century when lifeboats became established around the country. The coastguard service was formalised in the 1970s and search and rescue services across New Zealand are run by volunteers under the national organisation on a similar basis to the RNLI.

Shetland and New Zealand have well-known historical connections. Many Shetlanders emigrated in the 19th century to settle in the country, making use of their maritime and sheep farming skills. Several Shetland Societies continue to exist in New Zealand to maintain modern-day cultural links for descendants and relatives.

Robert Stout, originally from Lerwick, was Prime Minster of New Zealand from 1884 to 1887, and Helen Clark who was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008 has Shetland ancestors who left for New Zealand in 1874.

Stephen Manson, Coxswain of Lerwick Lifeboat said: “We’re grateful to Len for his gift of friendship and it’s been a pleasure to meet him while he’s been in Shetland visiting his son Craig, who’s also one of our volunteer crew. We may be many thousands of miles apart but our two national charities have the same purpose – to save lives at sea.”


RNLI/Bob Kerr

Stephen Manson, Coxswain (right) presents a plaque from RNLI Lerwick to Len Webb as a gift to Coastguard Whangarei in New Zealand.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.