The New Zealand Defence Force has airlifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container to volcanic White Island near Whakatane, to provide visitors an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.
CAPTION: An NH90 helicopter from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron lifts a 2.4-tonne shipping container to a volcanic island, to provide visitors with an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Darryn Webb said an NH90 helicopter from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) Ohakea-based 3 Squadron shifted the six-metre container to the island from Whakatane Airport, about 50km south. The container was placed on an old mining site to provide a natural protective barrier in case of a volcanic eruption
“We are pleased that we have been able to help address what has been a long-standing concern of communities as well as police and emergency management authorities in the Bay of Plenty and Whakatane areas,” he said.
“The airlifting of the container is the latest example of how the NZDF assists our communities and other government agencies.”
NH90 captain Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) James MacKenzie said the task was the latest demonstration of the NH90’s range and lift capacity.
“It is important to our training that we get to lift large and heavy loads that challenge the range and lift capacity of the NH90. A task like this prepares us to conduct more complex tasks when we go on operations, whether it is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or stability and support operations,” FLTLT MacKenzie said.
“It also gives us another opportunity to operate with personnel from the Army’s 5 Movements Company, who assisted in preparing the load.”
White Island is an active volcano that is visited by over 10,000 tourists every year. It fluctuates through periods of increased and reduced activity, and last erupted in April.
Clinton Naude, the Director of Emergency Management Bay of Plenty, said the shipping container will help ensure people have a safe area to go to in the event of a volcanic eruption or an emergency event.
“The container will also be used to store safety gear, spare clothing, food supplies and emergency and rescue items,” he said.
“We have been working closely with GNS Science, New Zealand Police, other partner agencies and tour operators for some time to improve the safety of visitors to White Island. The placement of a container is another step towards ensuring we are better prepared for an event which may impact visitors.”
The RNZAF introduced the NH90s into service in 2013 to perform a wide range of roles in New Zealand and overseas. With sophisticated systems and greater capacity, the NH90 is able to carry up to 19 passengers or undersling artillery in support of combat operations.
The RNZAF has used the NH90 helicopters for search and rescue missions, transport for military and government personnel, and lifting of equipment while also maintaining a counter-terrorism response. In June, it shifted a 1.7-tonne Department of Conservation hut sitting on an active slip in Marlborough to safer ground.
The helicopters confirmed their ability to support a humanitarian aid operation on their first overseas mission in Fiji early this year, when they provided a critical link between the main population centres and outlying islands devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston. Almost 160 hours of relief missions were flown by the NH90s during the seven-week operation..