Learning to survive, thrive and save lives

YSAR Mission, Vision and Values


YSAR Trust is a non-profit charitable organization that offers a three-year training program for secondary school students in New Zealand. The organization’s primary focus is on skill development, community service principles, and authentic outdoor education learning outcomes aligned with the Search and Rescue (SAR) and Emergency Management (EM) sectors. Since its inception in Hamilton in 2005, the organization has established itself as a trustworthy entity in the SAR and EM sector.

In 2017, YSAR began building capacity for growth, opening its Auckland branch in 2018, and learning valuable insights into the future needs of personnel and systems support for a growing entity. In 2022, YSAR reached a milestone by starting up three new branches with five more branches planned for 2024. As YSAR continues to gain a secure place within the SAR and EM sector, it is expected that National funding and corporate sponsorship will become available to support the operational delivery and managerial function of a National Charity.

YSAR has gained credibility across both local communities and the SAR and EM sectors and received recognition as a positive youth development program with a focus on authentic learning principles. YSAR has trained over 500 students to date, with many of them integrating into SAR groups across New Zealand and entering vocations closely aligned with emergency response. The curriculum has been developed to include outdoor education and field skills, advanced leadership, and management, and real-world problem-solving, including innovation projects utilizing the latest emerging disruptive technology.

In 2022, YSAR conducted an Alumni Survey, which showed that the benefits around mental health, confidence, and personal growth were recognized, along with the personal opportunities that graduates continue to receive long after they finish the three-year program from the skills accredited and the value placed by employers, universities, and others in the YSAR program.

YSAR is committed to assisting in delivering the action plans from the National NZ Search and Rescue and Recreation Safety review 2021-2023 to build resilience across the sectors. In 2022, YSAR brought SAR and EM partners together for a National youth development forum focusing on youth, diversity, and future workforce capability through youth development. The unique value proposition as the youth development feeder organization within SAR and EM provides significant opportunities to shape the future of volunteering through skill set development, diversity, and ethnicity youth participation.

The emphasis of the YSAR plan is to continue to learn from the start-ups of new branches and continue to scale safely, ensuring the vision, values, and purpose of YSAR remain firmly within focus. As new branches emerge across New Zealand, it will be essential that volunteers within these groups are well-oriented and inducted into YSAR’s systems and processes. YSAR aims to play a leading role in future workforce development, through its youth development program, by working closely with NZSAR and NEMA in the implementation of the sector review outcomes.

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Weeknight training


Learning to survive, thrive and save lives


We exist to empower the next generation of community-minded volunteers


And to achieve this, we’re enabling adventure through our leading-edge Search and Rescue and Emergency Management programme


Growing our PEOPLE

Manaakitanga – We care for all people and acknowledge tangata whenua and mana whenua in Aotearoa. Our common purpose is for people
to thrive at YSAR in a supportive environment. By fostering partnerships with our communities, we’re learning more, innovating faster and venturing further than ever before.

Conserving our PLANET

Kaitiakitanga – We conserve Papatūānuku and Ranginui. Our natural environment sits at the heart of every decision we make.
As kaitiaki of our native bush we tread lightly, ensuring we preserve and enhance our country’s natural wonders for future generations to enjoy.

 Committing to PROGRESS

Hihiritanga – We strive to be better than we were yesterday and we’re deliberate in doing so. Through a genuine understanding of the present and future needs of our sector, we are solving historical challenges with innovative solutions.

YSAR Curriculum

The Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR) program is a three-year Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) program designed for selected Year 11, 12, and 13 students. The program is offered in Tauranga and Mt Albert, Auckland, and consists of weekly two-hour classes during term time (approximately 29 per year), and a monthly weekend outdoors camping exercise (approximately 9 per year). Although the program does not currently offer a qualification listed on the NZ Qualifications Framework (NZQF), some modules contain the content and criteria to meet various Unit Standards, and in some cases, these are awarded when delivered and assessed by external registered providers.

  • The YSAR Year One curriculum is equivalent to Level 1 (NCEA 1) on the NZQF, with the emphasis on basic general and/or foundation knowledge, applying basic solutions to simple problems, and interacting with others in highly structured contexts requiring some responsibility for their own learning. 
  • The YSAR Year Two curriculum is equivalent to Level 2 (NCEA 2) on the NZQF, with an emphasis on basic factual and/or operational knowledge of a field of work or study, applying known solutions to familiar problems, and collaborating with others while being under general supervision. 
  • The YSAR Year Three curriculum is equivalent to Level 3 (NCEA 3) on the NZQF, with an emphasis on some operational and theoretical knowledge in a field of work or study, selecting and applying a range of known solutions to familiar problems, and contributing to group performance while requiring major responsibility for their own learning and performance.

The strategic purpose of the YSAR program is to provide the underlying skills required for trained young adults to transition into Search and Rescue (SAR) and Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) related organizations. The program aims to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) learning to enhance students’ own skill sets and contribute digital and scientific literacy to the SAR/CDEM sector. The emphasis of this three-year program is on developing participants’ competence through safe, sequenced, learning experiences in dynamic outdoor environments, while operating under a framework of kaitiakitanga that incorporates respect for local iwi or hapū tikanga and kawa, sustainability, and the environment in which they are operating.

Graduates of the YSAR program will be able to manage themselves, including equipment, weather, navigation, logistics, and safety management to achieve group objectives. They will be able to apply interpersonal communication skills to operate as an effective team member under YSAR’s code of conduct, rules, regulations, and relevant legislation. They will also exercise judgment to plan, prepare for and participate in an outdoor recreation activity that is consistent with the safety management systems and requirements of SAR organizations. Graduates will recognize and use a range of STEM tools and innovative solutions in real-world applications within SAR and CDEM operations. They will also understand and model the principles of kaitiakitanga in the outdoors environment.

The YSAR program is open to any secondary school student aged between 14-18 years, from all ethnicities and social backgrounds. Students need to submit an online application, including their age, previous outdoors experience, current health and fitness, study and career aspirations, reason for applying, STEM interest areas, and a non-family character referee. A short list of applicants is then interviewed by a panel of three committee members, and an offer of acceptance is made. The YSAR program has been operating since 2009, taught by volunteers from related fields, including NZ Police, LandSAR, Coast Guard, Civil Defence Emergency Management, Urban Search and Rescue, and Surf Life Saving. The program has been externally moderated by a professional academic development expert.


Thank you for choosing to donate to YSAR

YSAR is classified as a Donor Organisation and your donations are tax deductible – please make contact for further information