09 February, 2023
Fresh from completing tasks in the Kermadec Islands 1000km north of New Zealand, where it supported conservation and science work and helped mana whenua strengthen their connection with the whenua (land) of their tīpuna (ancestors), the Royal New Zealand Navy’s HMNZS Canterbury is now heading to the Sub-Antarctic for a similar role.
The military sealift vessel left Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base on Tuesday and will call into Bluff before making the 465km journey south to Campbell Island (Moutere Ihupuku) and Auckland Islands (Maungahuka).
Commanding officer of Canterbury, Commander Bronwyn Heslop, said crew had worked hard to ready the ship for the journey south after returning to Auckland late last week.
The 12-day operation to Rangitāhua/Raoul Island in the Kermadecs involved resupply, conservation and maintenance tasks.
A Navy Seasprite helicopter from RNZAF No. 6 Squadron was used to transport Department of Conservation, MetService and GNS Science personnel and equipment, and the New Zealand Conservation Dog Programme, between ship and shore, including winching personnel down to difficult-to-reach locations.
Northland iwi, Ngāti Kuri mana whenua, were also involved, undertaking research on the island's tracks and native wildlife.
“It’s hugely significant to undertake this trip, with maintaining our connection to our island and oceanscapes and with our relationship with Navy, it’s been huge to reconnect and deliver us to Rangitāhua,” said Sheridan Waitai, Executive Director and Trustee, Ngāti Kuri Trust Board.
MetService personnel upgraded the island’s automatic weather station and undertook maintenance on the facilities at the meteorological station.
“Observations from the automatic weather station at Raoul provide early warning of tropical weather systems including tropical cyclones that may have an adverse impact on New Zealand,” said Steve Knowles, MetService Network Operations Manager.
Commander Heslop said for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel involved, the time at sea had also been about building core skills.
“We've been undertaking training in aviation and boat drills. Every day people have learned more about their life as a sailor, soldier and aviator, so we've really built NZDF capability while we've been here on this operation," she said.
Canterbury’s crew is now preparing for the challenging and chillier seas around the Sub-Antarctic Islands.
The Sub-Antarctic Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for many years the NZDF has played a crucial role in supporting agencies that protect the natural heritage, important biodiversity, and pest-free status of both sets of islands.
For the first time there will be three Kāi Tahu Kā Rūnaka ki Murihiku representatives aboard.
Kāi Tahu know the Southern Ocean as Te Moana Tāpokopoko a Tāwhaki, the engulfing ocean of Tāwhaki. As kaitiaki, they have long held a connection with the Sub-Antarctic Islands, and the stories of their tīpuna who travelled to the islands are carved into Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff.
“This trip offers a timely opportunity to improve Crown-Iwi relationships through the Navy,” said Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral David Proctor.
“The Defence Force and Royal New Zealand Navy draw heavily on te ao Māori. If we can support Kai Tāhu whānau to strengthen their relationship with Moutere Ihupuku and Maungahuka, it strengthens us.”
Te Rūnaka o Awarua whānau member Bob Bowen says the upcoming visit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Te Moana Tāpokopoko a Tāwhaki, Moutere Ihupuku, and Maungahuka.
“It’s incredible to imagine back to the days of our tīpuna when they travelled south to the Sub-Antarctic in waka through ferocious storms. It amazes me how they navigated without the modern luxuries we have today.
“This voyage is our chance to support the mahi to protect our taoka (taonga) species like tōroa (albatross), hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), toharā (southern right whale), and rāpoka (New Zealand sea lion), and to maintain our ahi kā – our continuous connection with these special islands as mana whenua and mana moana.”
Department of Conservation operations manager for Murihiku John McCarroll says the operation enabled the agency to carry out important conservation work at some of New Zealand’s most remote sites.
“The focus of this trip is maintenance and repairs to key infrastructure which helps us undertake important conservation work. Sea lion, albatross and penguin monitoring will also take place.”
Canterbury’s contingent includes members of the Sir Peter Blake Trust. An environmental leadership expedition includes 11 students and five teachers taking part in research with scientists from the University of Otago, GNS Science and the Cawthron Institute.
“They will be peat sampling, plankton tows, marine intertidal sampling, and marine sediment and water column sampling,” said Blake Head of Programmes, Jacob Anderson.