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Army field kitchen feeds hundreds during Waitangi Day

A contingent from the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment cooked around 600 meals a day for local organisers and volunteers during the Waitangi commemorations, culminating in the preparation and serving of more than 2,000 hangi meals on Waitangi Day.

19 February, 2024

Requested at short notice, the team of 28 soldiers and one officer was assembled from across the country. Burnham Military Camp’s 3 Combat Service Support Battalion (3CSSB) supplied four Combat Drivers and one Maintenance Fitter who flew into Palmerston North. At Linton Military Camp, 21 Supply Company, 2 Combat Service Support Battalion (2CSSB) provided four more Combat Drivers, one Maintenance Fitter, 15 Caterers, and a Platoon Commander. An Electrical Fitter from Combat Service Support Company (North) was collected from Papakura Military Camp enroute.

The request from Te Puni Kokiri came on Tuesday, a week before Waitangi Day. The next day, Warrant Officer Class 1 Lisa Verlander, the 2CSSB Catering Warrant Officer, was on a plane, arriving in Waitangi by noon to undertake a reconnaissance. A field kitchen was packed up and on the road from Linton by Thursday, arriving on Friday. After setting up the field kitchen and accommodation near the wharekai on Te Tii Marae grounds, the Army personnel were officially welcomed onto the marae. Cooking began on Saturday morning.

WO1 Verlander says they were constantly feeding about 200 people breakfast, lunch and dinner. “It was all the workers here, the security, the people directing traffic, the work parties, for four days. The biggest day was Waitangi Day, with the preparation of the hangi food.”

Good food and good feedback go hand-in-hand, but people were very interested in work of the Army team, stopping by for chats. “Not everyone understands that soldiers have different skills, different trades,” she says. “This showed people what we were about, and you know what, cooking food is a really tangible positive thing. We provided the kai and people went, wow, that is awesome.”

Hard at work: LCPL Blake Cranch, SGT Geoff Adair, PTE Ethan Smit, LCPL Michael Godfree.
LCPL Storm Van Zyl and PTE Erina Himona chat with RADM David Proctor, Chief of Navy.

LCPL Storm Van Zyl and PTE Erina Himona chat with RADM David Proctor, Chief of Navy.

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It wasn’t just food; the drivers and workshop personnel helped out local volunteers where they could.

She says they have done this before at Waitangi, but COVID-19 meant the last time this occurred was in 2020. But 21 Supply Company have had a more recent example of responsiveness when they deployed to Napier during the Cyclone Gabrielle response a year ago.

Second Lieutenant Nic Kay, Platoon Commander, says their work has re-established the relationship between Ngati Tumatauenga (NZ Army) and Te Tii Marae. “If the results of this contingent’s work are anything to go by, it should remain strong for years to come.”

The contingent were able to relax after the intensity of Waitangi Day. “They got to explore the local area and inject some money into the local economy. Many spent time at the beach, exploring the treaty grounds, going for bushwalks or simply finding food that they didn’t have to cook themselves.”

WO1 Verlander says less than half of the contingent had come this far north. “It was a good opportunity for people to come somewhere they had never been and see what Waitangi Day is all about.”