John Munro: The Unseen Hero behind Southland Locator Beacons and Recipient of The NZ Search and Rescue Gold Award
In a ceremony held at the grand hall in the New Zealand parliament building on May 17th, 2023, John Munro, the indefatigable Director of the Southland Locator Beacons Charitable Company, was bestowed the prestigious NZ Search and Rescue Gold Award (Support). The award was presented by Hon Kiri Allan, the Association Minister for Transport, acknowledging Munro's substantial contribution to search and rescue operations over a sustained period.
When it comes to safety in New Zealand's great outdoors, few names are as influential as John Munro's. Since 1996, Munro has been a linchpin in the Southland Locator Beacons Charitable Company and its parent Trust. His vision and relentless effort have turned what began as a local initiative into New Zealand's largest locator beacon rental operation, with an inventory of 550 units available across 92 outlets nationwide.
Munro’s commitment to providing affordable access to personal locator beacons (PLBs) for New Zealanders in remote and potentially perilous environments has transformed and elevated the country's search and rescue operations. Munro, who took over as the Trust Chairperson a year after its inception, has been instrumental in the development and expansion of Locator Beacons New Zealand, the country's first personal locator beacon hire agency.
Under Munro's stewardship, the Southland Locator Beacons Charitable Company has played an integral role in over 800 rescue operations across New Zealand in its 28-year history. In fact, according to data, about 20 percent of these rescuees wouldn’t have survived otherwise.
Munro's tireless work is backed by a competent and dedicated team. Teri Diack, who meticulously monitors the PLB hire database, is a prime example. Diack's role is instrumental to the organization's success: she checks on the wellbeing of those late in returning their hired beacons, and makes sure adventurers have safely returned. In case of an emergency, it is Diack who provides vital information about the hirer to the Rescue Coordination Centre, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Working closely with Munro and Diack is Michael Goodwin, the organization's handyman. Beyond his knack for keeping the website running smoothly, Goodwin manages all online sales and is Munro’s right hand in accounting and invoicing. This trio forms the backbone of the organization, ready to step up and take control whenever needed.
An impressive feat of Munro's stewardship is the strategic partnership established with Macpac stores in October 2020. Since then, over 6000 beacons have been hired through Macpac alone. This initiative, combined with the rest of Locator Beacon NZ’s outlets, has had a profound impact on enhancing the availability of these life-saving devices to the public.
Despite the remarkable growth and success of the Southland Locator Beacons Charitable Company, it retains its charitable ethos. This was evident when the company responded to a spike in demand and increased its beacon rentals by 30 to 35 percent since 2020, providing affordable access to this crucial safety tool to more people across the country.
In the face of his numerous accolades and the company's continuing success, Munro remains humble and committed to the cause of saving lives. His efforts have not just made the wilds of New Zealand safer but also saved millions in taxpayer funds by reducing search and rescue operations costs.
The recognition with the NZ Search and Rescue Gold Award (Support) is yet another testament to Munro’s dedication, hard work, and significant contribution to the search and rescue sector in New Zealand. As the largest personal locator beacon hire agency in NZ
ACR RESQLINK PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACONS RETURN LINK SERVICE
The next-generation ACR ResQLink™ Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) with Return Link Service (RLS)
Now offering survivors vital reassurance in a life-threatening emergency, the Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Return Link alerting technology is available with the ACR Electronics ResQLink View RLS and the ResQLink 410 RLS.
The groundbreaking ResQLink View RLS is the world’s first PLB with the capability to provide the user with a clear confirmation message via a digital display screen, verifying that the international satellite system Cospas-Sarsat has received their distress message and location. The ResQLink 410 RLS has a confirmation light to indicate that a signal has been received.
NZ Hire and Sale of Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
Valuable information on the use of Personal Locator Beacons
We are the first company to be accepted by Search and Rescue as the 'Standard' to achieve when supplying emergency personal locator beacons (PLB)
Since 1996 we have expanded to 89 hire outlets throughout New Zealand,
Taking the search out of search and rescue
We work to educate everyone about safe outdoor adventure practices and the importance of carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB), We have 89 hire outlets with over 600 highly rated ACR Personal Locater Beacons (PLB), We also offer the cheapest possible prices for the purchase of personal locator beacons
One of the most reliable ways of signalling that you need help,
Due to New Zealand’s rugged landscape and changeable weather a personal locator beacon (PLB) is an essential item for those who regularly head into the back-country bush walking, hiking & backpacking, Beacons (also known as distress or emergency beacons) are the most effective way of letting people know that you need urgent help and where to find you.
Radios, GPS tracking systems, distress flares, whistles, lights and mobile phones may be useful as a back-up, however, none are as effective as a PLB Personal Locator Beacon when you need help in distress or an emergency.
We only Hire and sell NZ coded PLBs Personal Locator Beacons, and have 89 rental outlets throughout NZ all with the highly rated ACR PLBs. Beacons can be purchased overseas, but it’s important to get your beacon re-coded for New Zealand in order for it to be registered with the Rescue Coordination Center NZ (RCCNZ). If you don’t do this, rescue services in the country you bought your beacon from will be sent your distress signal, delaying your rescue. Re-coding the beacon can be done here in NZ through Wilco Marine
https://beacons.org.nz/Registration.aspx - it provides RCCNZ with crucial details that help them assist you faster.Register your beacon at
Choose the right beacon
Although they all work in the same way, different beacons are designed for use in different environments.
There are three types of beacons:
EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) are best for boats, ships and other activities on water
PLBs (personal locator beacon) are for those tramping, climbing, hunting and travelling to remote locations, microlights and balloons and any other outdoor activities. If being used for paddling or small water craft then they need to be of a type that can float and operate in water.
ELTs (emergency locator transmitter) are only for aircraft
Most Personal Locator beacons work as an emergency device only – sending a signal when you need help. But some models also provide messaging and tracking options. These devices allow for pre-set messages to be sent and may be able to receive text messages and link up to social media accounts so your friends can follow your progress. The major drawback of these devices is that they operate on a subscription service. and most don't have the 121.5mz making it harder to pinpoint the location
Where to place you beacon
We suggest you place your (PLB) Personal Locator Beacon either in one of our custom made pouches attached to your belt or a zipped pocket. All our Personal Locator beacons for purchase or hire come with a heavy duty pouch, always carry your beacon where you can get to it in an emergency, The last thing you want is the beacon to be in something that you may be separated from. We provide the pouches for $15 in our online shop: “These are made specifically for ACR 375, 400 & 425 beacons
How a Emergency Personal Locator Beacons works
A personal locator beacon is a small electronic device that on activation broadcasts a signal to a satellite.
This signal alerts the New Zealand Rescue Co-Ordination Centre that you are in distress
When a PLB is activated, the signal is picked up by a satellite, which then sends information to The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) they will determine the exact location of the beacon, and will contact the people listed on the beacon’s registration details. This is why it’s important to register your beacon upon purchasing and to keep emergency contact details up to date, and let those contacts know your plans in order to help establish your position. When the position has been determined, RCCNZ will launch a search and rescue operation. All modern Personal Locator Beacons transmit a 406MHz signal, but some also transmit the older 121.5MHz signal, which helps searchers home in on your location once they arrive in the vicinity. Your chosen (PLB) Personal Locator Beacon should also be GPS-enabled so it can also send your location to searchers (non GPS models still work but take longer for orbiting satellites to pinpoint your location).
all of our PLBs Person Locator Beacons for Hire or Purchase have all three 406MHz, 121.5MHz & GPS
When should you activate you Beacon
Distress Personal Locator Beacons are for life threatening situations, RCCNZ advise people to err on the side of caution and to activate their PLB when in need of rescue, please don't leave it till the middle of the night; it’s easier and more convenient to search during the day with plenty of daylight. if possible, find a clearing and remain there, Once activated keep the Personal Locator Beacon turned on and stay in one place. If you’re hopelessly lost or need rescuing due to an injury, the more you move around the harder it is for rescuers to find you. if possible find a clearing, create arrows out of rocks and sticks and leave bright pack liners beside a riverbed or move to a ridge or a flat area large enough for the helicopter to land and would help rescuers spot you and draw attention to your location. Use common sense and do what you are able to do to aid rescuers in finding you
Do not move if it is dangerous to do so. If the injured person is not able to be moved and someone can stay with them, one person could take the PLB to a clearing and then guide rescuers once they arrive. But realize that New Zealand bush and terrain can make it tricky for searchers to hone in on a Personal Locator Beacon. also the reason we only supply beacons with all three transmit signals 406MHz, 121.5MHz & GPS
Accidental activation of your PLB
If your beacon is set off accidentally, phone The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) immediately.
New Zealand (toll free): 0508 4 RCCNZ or 0508 472 269
This will ensure a search and rescue operation is not launched needlessly.
If you are unable to contact RCCNZ immediately, switch off the beacon and make contact as soon as you are able to.
There is no penalty for accidental activation.
Keep your PLB securely on your person,
Ensure everyone in your party knows where the beacon is and how to operate it.
Get familiar with your beacon before you head out
When possible, have more than one PLB in your group.
Make sure your PLB is waterproof and you have a floatation device for it. (like all the ones we sell)
Read the instruction manual and understand how to operate your beacon
Check the expiry date for the battery, which is shown on the beacon label
Batteries should be replaced by your supplier or agent
Make sure your beacon is registered and that your details are kept up to date
Register your emergency Personal Locator beacon
It’s the law, it’s free and easy and it could save your life
Registration of your Emergency Personal Locator beacon is FREE and only takes a couple of minutes. Registrations can be submitted online, emailed or downloaded and sent through post.
Registering your beacon is a legal requirement.
Ensuring your Personal Locator beacon (PLB) is registered with the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand (RCCNZ) is vital – a registered Personal Locator Beacon means a quicker, more targeted response can be launched. RCCNZ may also be able to find out exactly who is with you, how long you have been gone, and whether anyone has any medical conditions. Rescuers will then be in the best position to help you when you are located.
Disposing of an old Personal Locator Beacons
Old or obsolete beacons need to be disposed of carefully, to ensure they are not set off by accident.
Do not just throw them away, as a lot of time and money has been spent on search operations to dig beacons out of rubbish tips.
The battery needs to be disconnected and the beacon disposed of according to local regulations, as many beacons contain hazardous materials. The names of distributors who dispose of old beacons can be found at https://beacons.org.nz/.
PLBs are ideal for emergency's in many outdoor activity's
Tramping, bush-walking, hiking, backpacking, Hunting, sailing, boating, Climbers, 4 wheel drive clubs, Farmers, Forestry workers
Don’t own a Personal Locator beacon? Rent one!
take a Registered 406 beacon with you when are in the outdoors in areas where you may not have cell phone coverage or other means of communication readily available See our Hire locations Map and list of locations near you
you can get into trouble very quickly while out in New Zealand’s rugged landscape, Get yourself a Personal Locator Beacon from us and take it for walks and hopefully you never have to use it