National Rescue Unit

Wellington SPCA's National Rescue Unit (NRU) comprises of a group of internationally qualified emergency response volunteers who provide a technical rescue service for trapped animals, as well as responding to disasters that may strike.

Wellington SPCA founded the NRU in 1995 and is the only SPCA in New Zealand and Australia to have such a specialist rescue capability, epitomised by the rescue of over 70 animals from the red zone immediately following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

NRU specialises in technical rescue, and unlike human rescue teams, they must be capable for rescuing patients ranging from 50 grams to 500 kilograms. The composite team of Wellington SPCA staff and volunteers is available 24-7, and can be deployed nationally at the request of any SPCA centre being made to the National Office, RNZSPCA. 


The volunteer unit of 8-12 technicians is comprised is capable to respond to the following technical rescue incidents involving animals:

  • Flood & swiftwater 
  • Confined spaces (such as under houses, storm drains etc)
  • High and low angle (height rescues such as trees, buildings, cliffs)
  • Urban disasters (USAR/earthquakes)
  • Large animal rescues (horses, cattle etc)
  • Rural Fire (animal evacuation support only)


The NRU has an impressive array of specialist resources including:

  • Rescue Trailer and Hyundai iLoad 6 seater van
  • Rapid Deployment Craft (RDC) with 2.5hp engine
  • Access to Inflatable Rescue Boat (4.2m) with 30hp engine
  • Large animal rescue harness, slings and strop guides
  • AC hot stick - electricity detection wand
  • Gas detectors (2x 4-sensor) units 
  • Confined space tripod and type II retrieval system
  • Search/Inspection cameras
  • Technical Personal Floatation Devices PFDs (and canine PFDs)
  • Pre-Hospital Emergency Care kit with oxygen and AED
  • High angle rope cache with over 200m twin line access capacity
  • Ground picket anchor system
  • Canine rescue harnesses and muzzles
  • Intrinsically safe torches and Hytera EX UHF radios
  • Portable radios (UHF, VHF and VHF Air-Ground) and VHF repeater
  • Ladders (extension and gorilla type)
  • 2.4kva generator and lighting systems
  • InReach satellite messenger and duress system
  • Reach and Rescue Pole System
  • Team welfare supplies (food and water) including solar and 12v shower


  • SPCA Inspectors & Auxiliary Officers (appointed under the Animal Welfare Act 1999)
  • Rescue 3 International: Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Technicians
  • Rescue 3 International: Animal Rescue Technicians (Level I and II)
  • Rescue 3 International: Swiftwater & Flood Rescue Boat Operators
  • NZQA or Rescue 3 Confined Space Entry certification
  • NZQA Pre-Hospital Emergency Care/Emergency Medical Responders
  • NZQA Helicopter safety trained (US20388)
  • NZQA Rural Fire safety trained (US3285)
  • Massey University or Rescue 3 Technical Large Animal Rescue certification
  • NZUSAR Responder (CAT1R) certification
  • Coordinated Incident Management System trained to Level 2 and 4
  • Diploma level qualified Veterinary Nurse
  • Coastguard Day Skipper & VHF Operator certifications

We also work with a wide variety of agencies and organisations to achieve the best result for animals in hazardous environments, such as civil defence response teams. 

Selection into the unit is highly competitive with generally only l0% of applicants being recruited for the Animal Rescue Technician (ARTech) course (three weekends) before being placed on probation for 12 months. Unit members volunteer in excess of 20 hours a month with on-going training, exercises, maintenance and meetings. 

The NRU provides an excellent pathway for volunteers to gain experience working as part of the wider inspectorate. If you are considering a career as an SPCA Inspector or with local animal management services consider taking the first step, and signing up to be a Wellington SPCA volunteer today. The NRU prefers to recruit from active Wellington SPCA Emergency Reservists. 



Animal care

Learn about caring for your pet as well as legal minimum standards for care.  

Pet insurance

Find out how Southern Cross can help provide protection for your beloved family pet.