November 18, 2016 - In an exceptionally Kiwi way, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) thanked a multinational crew of Australian, Canadian and US military personnel for supporting its disaster relief operation during a traditional powhiri at Kaikoura’s local marae this afternoon.
“It is a fantastic feeling to know that our closest partners offered support without question and quickly mobilized to stand with our sailors, soldiers and airmen to provide support to the people of Kaikoura,” Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.
“I would also like to acknowledge the offers of assistance from the other visiting navies. These offers of support are testament to the strength of camaraderie that exists among these nations, all of whom have experienced their own national tragedies in recent years.”
Warships and maritime surveillance aircraft from Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States, here to take part in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary, were diverted earlier this week to Kaikoura to support the NZDF’s disaster relief operation. The ships, which have about 660 sailors and four helicopters between them, will sail for Wellington tonight en route to Auckland.
Four maritime helicopters from the foreign warships helped offload about 216 tonnes of aid supplies from the amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS CANTERBURY. Surveillance aircraft from Japan and the US conducted surveys of quake-damaged areas.
About 120 sailors from Australia, Canada and the US joined colleagues from the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS TE KAHA to form a multinational team that went ashore in Kaikoura to support relief efforts.
Commander (CDR) Steve Lenik, Commanding Officer of TE KAHA, said the multinational team helped clear debris in primary and secondary schools and distributed hundreds of chemical toilets to Kaikoura households.
“The sailors helped fix sewage lines and went door-knocking to conduct welfare checks. Some of them also helped prepare food for the community at the marae.”
“It had been quite an eye-opening experience, especially for the younger sailors and a sobering one at that,” CDR Lenik said.
Another 174 Kaikoura residents, one cat and 13 dogs were evacuated today by CANTERBURY, bringing to about 900 the total number of people rescued. ‘
“CANTERBURY has more than 360 bunks in total so everyone will get a bed tonight. During the first evacuations on Wednesday, we were packed to the rafters with about 450 evacuees on board,” CDR Simon Rooke, the Commanding Officer of CANTERBURY, said.
CANTERBURY will sail to Lyttelton around midnight and is expected to arrive there around 8am on Sunday.
The NZDF has mobilized about 560 personnel, at least 11 aircraft and four vessels to support the Government’s earthquake response.