Search and rescue operators were honoured in Wellington on Tuesday night for their work last year.
The Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust received the top accolade for its part in the Paritutu Rock tragedy off New Plymouth, in which three people died.
Helicopter crewman Andrew Cronin said it's difficult to accept the accolade when people lost their lives.
LandSAR Wanaka received an award for helping a teenage boy trapped in a waterfall.
The boy died later in hospital and chairman Roy Bailey said such cases can have an emotional strain for a long time.
Auckland Rescue Helicopter and two police officers, Sherp Tucker and Gerard Prins, were also recognised for services to search and rescue.