March 22, 2017 (Released April 5, 2017) – The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is transporting 50 staff and about 15 tonnes of equipment and building material to Raoul Island this week for three government agencies undertaking scientific work there.
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS Canterbury and a Royal New Zealand Air Force SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter are transporting staff and supplies for Department of Conservation (DOC), MetService and GNS Science on the trip. The ship left Auckland today and will return on March 30.
About 40 DOC workers, including botanists and engineers, will conduct maintenance work on several buildings and a solar-power generation system on Raoul Island. Five rangers will also replace the five who have been stationed on the island.
DOC operations manager Geoff Woodhouse said having access to the Canterbury, as well as helicopter support, allowed DOC to transport its largest contingent to date, who would be carrying out key projects in a limited time.
In addition to food supplies for their Kermadecs outstation, staff would be bringing 10 tonnes of corrugated iron roofing, four 30,000-litre water tanks, four roller doors, a tractor, a tandem trailer and several tonnes of building materials.
“The assistance that DOC gets from the New Zealand Defence Force is invaluable, especially being able to utilise an asset like Canterbury, which has so much capacity,” Mr Woodhouse said.
MetService Meteorological Data Services manager Kevin Alder said three agency staff would be assessing their facilities on the island and teaching the DOC team how to operate and maintain an upper air sounding programme, where weather balloons carrying instruments that measure wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity and pressure are released each day.
“The programme is indispensable in gathering data used for forecasting weather,” Mr Alder said.
GNS Science is sending a team of 11, including three commercial divers, who will service the tsunami gauges at Fishing Rock on Raoul Island that form part of the New Zealand tsunami-detection network.
Other GNS Science staff will be servicing the GeoNet seismic and global positioning system equipment on the island, while two chemists will be sampling the volcanic crater lakes and hot springs.
GNS Science staff will also conduct research work on Curtis Island, a volcanic island with an area of about 40 hectares. The island has an active geothermal system and is a breeding site for nesting seabirds.
RNZN Commodore Jim Gilmour, the Maritime Component Commander, said deploying Canterbury enabled more cargo and more personnel to be carried on the 1000-kilometre trip.
“The Seasprite further widens the scope of our support for other government agencies because it will enable us to reach more inaccessible and remote parts of the Kermadecs,” Commodore Gilmour said.
Commander Simon Rooke, the Commanding Officer of Canterbury, said the ship could carry up to 250 passengers and about 750 tonnes of cargo.
“Because of her strategic lift capacity, Canterbury is often assigned to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or resupply missions in New Zealand and overseas,” Commander Rooke said before the ship left Auckland this morning.
Canterbury last went on a resupply mission to the Kermadecs in 2012. Last September the New Zealand Defence Force deployed offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago and a Seasprite helicopter to transport 23 staff from DOC and MetService and about seven tonnes of equipment and supplies to Macauley and Raoul islands in the Kermadecs.