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Mahi whakaora

When disaster strikes, putting life, health and property at risk, people’s lives are turned upside-down. Communities, regions or even whole countries can need help as quickly as possible.

Our Air Force is uniquely capable of responding quickly to unfolding events. We train to operate in tough conditions and a variety of environments. We are disciplined, well-coordinated, and have aircraft on stand-by and personnel trained to operate in difficult situations, that can quickly deploy to a disaster site. The Air Force maintains experts who can assess the scale of the disaster situation and determine what to do with the people and equipment we have available.

These are some of our stories


A community cut off

In 2016 a magnitude 7.8 quake strikes Kaikōura in the middle of the night. Nationally significant and locally vital road and rail links are buried under enormous landslides, or distorted beyond repair. Landline and mobile phone services go down across the region. Power and water infrastructure are disrupted. From 12:02 am Monday 14 November, Kaikōura is cut off.

14 November 2016

It becomes apparent that access and relief to the community – which includes hundreds of stranded tourists – can only happen in the short term with the help of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, followed by the Navy.

At daybreak a P-3K2 Orion and crew conduct aerial reconnaissance of the region, providing imagery that reveals the scale of the destruction. Simultaneously, 2 NH90 helicopters and crew from RNZAF Base Ohakea head south and are amongst the first to arrive into the cut-off town. 

Meanwhile, HMNZS Canterbury, a logistics supply ship, and HMNZS Wellington are ordered to head south from Auckland from 11pm.

Damage to infrastructure following earthquake on 14 Nov 16 near Kaikoura coast A pilot surveys damage to Kaikōura's coastal road after the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake from the cockpit of an NH90 helicopter. unnamed 2 1

Damage to road and rail into Kaikōura from NH90 Helicopter.

15 November 2016

Water and food are the most immediate concerns, as well as getting evacuations underway. On 15 November, NH90 helicopters land in Kaikōura to deliver supplies and begin evacuations. Their priority is to evacuate tourists and residents completely displaced by the earthquake and living in temporary shelters.

16 November 2016

At sea, hydrographic teams from HMNZS Wellington begin assessing how much the sea bed has altered. This paves the way for HMNZS Canterbury and her landing craft to start mass evacuations of stranded tourists to Lyttelton. More aid arrives thanks to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, including water airdrops from C-130 Hercules and continuing aid from helicopters.

A C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft airdrops 5000 litres of bottled water for Kaikoura residents following an earthquake on 14 Nov 16.

A C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft airdrops 5000 litres of bottled water for Kaikoura residents following an earthquake on 14 Nov 16.

17 November 2016

At the time of the quake, New Zealand is hosting a number of international navies in Auckland to celebrate our Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th birthday. Australia, Canada and the United States offer support to New Zealand. A task force of three frigates and a destroyer, (HMNZS Te Kaha, HMAS Darwin from Australia, HMCS Vancouver from Canada and USS Sampson from the US) are diverted to Kaikōura to support the airlift of supplies into the stricken town. Helicopters from these vessels will spend days ferrying aid and supplies into Kaikōura from the deck of HMNZS Canterbury. International air assets -  US P3 Orion and Japanese Kawasaki P1 - also support the response by conducting aerial assessments of the damage.

18 November 2016

HMNZS Endeavour, the fleet tanker, arrives to restock ships with fuel and supplies. By this time, the first Army convoy of 27 trucks find their way through a four-hour overland route from Culverden to reach Kaikōura, providing fuel supplies and more aid. In all, the army will deliver 155 tonnes of aid. 

NH90 Helicopters arrive in Kaikoura to start evacuating people out of the town following an earthquake on 14 Nov 16. Personnel unload aid supplies from a truck in Kaikoura following a magnitude 7.5 Earthquake. An NH90 helicopter operates from 'LZ High' in Kaikoura, following an Earthquake on 14 Nov 16, while a Seasprite helicopter delivers an underslung load in the background.

19 November 2016

HMNZS Canterbury continues to evacuate residents and tourists to Christchurch, with overseas helicopters lifting more aid supplies off its flight deck and into the town.

20 November 2016

With Kaikōura now sustained and established as a base of operations for NZDF, A109 helicopters are utilised to investigate isolated and rural communities near Kaikōura.