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NZ Army proving routes and supplying communities

Day after day, Army engineers, reservists and logisticians work to reach cut-off settlements in Hawke’s Bay.

28 February, 2023

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While the Air Force and Navy deliver supplies to cut-off rural communities, it’s the work on the ground that works to ensure there is a way in and out.

Army task units continue to link up with isolated communities north and west of Napier, notably with Rissington, Dartmoor and Tutira.

An Army task unit, along with sailors from HMNZS Te Mana, provided supplies to Dartmoor recently with Unimog trucks and a Pinzgauer.

Major Timothy Cocks said Dartmoor was dealing with a complete cut-off to both the north and south sides of the community due to slips and the loss of their bridge. They were, in effect, sealed in.

“The Air Force had managed to fly in two tonnes of food with an NH90,” he said. “Through local knowledge, we heard there was a ford to the north. We found that and proved it.” Proving a route is a means by which NZDF vehicles travel a route in order to confirm that the road can be used by military vehicles.

The locals were extremely happy to see us. My sergeant told me that when they pulled up, a woman burst into tears as she saw them.

At the southern end, the unit were able to drive up to the lost bridge, with a shallow river in front of them. “We had known there was going to be a lot of jerry can movement (containers of fuel), which is why the Te Mana sailors had come along. We formed a human chain to get the fuel across.”

Dartmoor resident Gareth Hill said like many farming communities they were coping, but there was no access “apart from a big walk” or what the Army had managed to do for them.

“The first people here were Civil Defence in a helicopter, then the first Army Unimog came through with 80 litres of fuel, last night an NH90 helicopter dropped off a load of stuff for us, and then there’s you today.”

Later, Task Force Taniwha joined forces with civilian contractors in a two-pronged push to reach the cut-off township of Tutira.

LT Brad Taniora-Brockelsby, 2nd Engineer Regiment, said they worked with civilian heavy machinery from two ends to create a new temporary road. “Access is the biggest challenge. We’ve got 5/7 Battalion out here working alongside the Civil operators, and there’s a 2nd Engineering Regiment attachment to assist them.”

Corporal Storm Harrison, a 5/7 Battalion reservist and local, said the teams worked for four days to reach Tutira.

“We made it, which was a massive effort from our team. Being Territorial Forces and having the local knowledge helped our team get this far. That networking in the military community as well as our civilian community has been pretty awesome for everyone all around. We got the stores here, and the people were happy to see us. We’ve brought food, care packages, petrol - they were really short on petrol because they use it to run their generators.”

He said when they broke through they could take a deep breath. “That task is complete – time for the next one.”