Skip to main content

NZDF support to Canterbury floods

New Zealand Defence Force personnel have assisted in the evacuation of more than 50 people and are continuing to support civil authorities following severe flooding in the Canterbury region.

31 May, 2021

New Zealand Army personnel and crews from the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) have been deployed to assist communities in Canterbury following the flooding.

The New Zealand Army has sent soldiers, trucks and an ambulance from Burnham Military Camp. There are also personnel in headquarters command and control roles, and liaison officers in Ashburton, Timaru, Waimakariri and Selwyn emergency operations centres. 

Overnight, teams assisted in the evacuation of more than 30 people in the hardest-hit areas in support of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, New Zealand Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

Crew aboard a RNZAF NH90 helicopter rescued three people from floods in the Ashburton area overnight. One man, who was in a tree surrounded by floodwater in the vicinity of Darfield, was rescued after he jumped from the tree and attempted to swim and was swept away. The crew scoured the water for about 30 minutes before locating the man and plucking him to safety. The crew also rescued an elderly couple from the roof of a car near Ashburton Forks.

A second NH90 has been placed on standby to assist if required.

Army Liaison Officer in Ashburton, Captain Jake Faber, said NZDF personnel had worked late into the night to ensure residents affected by the floods were brought to safety. They were continuing to provide support where needed.

“Seeing the community overnight pull together and support the displaced residents who were evacuated from their homes has been heartening.

“The efforts by our soldiers have been noted across the Civil Defence community with our soldiers at the front line doing all they can to support the people of the region.

“New Zealand Defence Force vehicles have been critical in evacuating residents from inaccessible locations and adverse conditions where residents were deemed not safe,” Captain Faber said. 

By the numbers so far:

The New Zealand Army has 16 vehicles and 30 personnel in the following locations:

  • Ashburton: 17 personnel, 7 vehicles (including Unimog, HX58 and a LOV ambulance) – 24 adults, 6 children, 6 dogs, 6 cats evacuated
  • Timaru: 6 personnel, 4 vehicles – 6 adults evacuated
  • Waimakariri: 2 personnel, 2 vehicles
  • Selwyn: 5 personnel, 3 vehicles – 20 adults evacuated
  • Christchurch: 1 personnel

Two NH90 and crew are based at Christchurch Airport and further Army personnel and vehicles remain on stand-by to assist if required.