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A world of experience on the water

Thursday, 7 August 2014 1:00 p.m.

The Bay of Plenty’s new Regional Harbour Master has crammed a lot of experience into his maritime life – everything from serving in the Canadian Navy to a couple of years working in the Arctic.

But it’s warmer climes, and a love of New Zealand’s waters that has brought Peter Buell to settle in Tauranga.

After more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of maritime work, from big ocean-going ships to recreational tinnies puttering around the harbor, he’s looking forward to a new role working in a place where the water is the reason why most choose to live here. 

Peter was raised in Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada. He joined the Canadian Navy in 1982, serving for 17 years on several ships in various capacities, including time as department head in both operational and training squadrons.

He received his Master Foreign Going designation in 1995, and moved to New Zealand in 1999 to join the Royal New Zealand Navy and get more time at sea. He held several jobs, including Officer in Command of the Maritime Operational Evaluation Team, responsible for the team that assessed and trained Ships’ Companies.

In 2006 he was appointed Regional Harbour Master for Canterbury, responsible for navigation safety on the region’s harbours, lakes and rivers.   

Returning to Canada in 2007, Peter was Assistant Director of Marine Services for the Government of the Northwest Territories, responsible for a fleet of five ferries and all their personnel. He moved to Owen Sound, Ontario as Director of the Great Lakes International Marine Training and Research Centre of Georgian College, before returning to New Zealand.

“I spent almost two years in the Northwest Territories. I covered ferry operations from Fort Providence to Inuvik and Fort McPherson. We ran until the ice roads were able to take over from us each winter. It was exciting and challenging work,” he says.

Peter was awarded a Joint Force Commanders Commendation for his work in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in Vancouver and a Commanding Officer’s Commendation for planning and running a week-long Prime Minister’s tour on board HMNZS Canterbury. He’s also been awarded the Special Service Medal, Peacekeeping Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration.

“I deployed in many interesting parts of the world during my Navy time. Interestingly, it was not hard Navy work that I found the most satisfying. Work in Haiti, and in Indonesia after the Boxing Day Tsunami are my fondest memories – being out there, and making a difference.”

For Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the breadth of experience was a strong commendation when they were searching for a new Harbour Master, Maritime Operations Manager Reuben Fraser said.

“The role has an unusual mix of required skills, qualifications and experience. We needed to find someone who had extensive maritime background, and was qualified to captain the big ships that call at Tauranga,” he said.

“But we also needed someone with experience with smaller recreational vessels, experience in New Zealand local government, able to manage the Regional Council’s response to oil spills, able to manage a team of people and manage volunteers.

“It was an extensive recruitment process, and I think we’ve really found someone to cover all the bases,” Mr Fraser said. 

Peter Buell