Toys, books and sports equipment donated from Wairarapa’s Chanel College have added a personal touch to a substantial infrastructure delivery to Tokelau by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

Susie Walker, Assistant Director of Religious Studies and the school’s Literacy Lead, said the school filled its foyer with resources and equipment which it hoped would be of benefit to school children in Tokelau. 

The resources included “masses of English text books and editions of the School Journal, and a whole heap of PE gear, like cricket bats and balls’’, she said. 

Everything was in excellent condition but no longer used by the school. The hope was that the resources and sports equipment could be used by schools in the Pacific. 

Mrs Walker’s husband is Commander Martin Walker, Commanding Officer of the Royal New Zealand Navy logistics and supply vessel HMNZS Canterbury – “and lo and behold, HMNZS Canterbury was going to Tokelau”.

Commander Walker and his ship are currently on a mission to Tokelau, delivering much-needed infrastructure such as water tanks and solar panels.

The donated goods were delivered to Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Ohakea, where they were loaded up as part of an equipment delivery to Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

Mrs Walker said these good works were part of the school’s special character.

“We are a Catholic school and our special character is service to others, reaching out to communities and seeing how we can help them.”

Commander Walker said the goods were repacked in New Zealand into three lots for the three schools on Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu atolls.

The packs were woven into the major infrastructure delivery, which included solar equipment and 48 water tanks. 

Two RNZAF NH90 helicopters and a Seasprite helicopter were transporting the equipment on to the atolls. The equipment was being lowered into a loading zone on land, where a local team disinfected and distributed it.

Mitigating any risk of COVID-19 reaching Tokelau during the operation is a major priority. All personnel working on the island are screened for COVID-19 before leaving the ship, and they maintain at least a 4-metre distance from any locals and wear PPE while performing their tasks. Communication is done by radio.

It means Commander Walker has not had word on the schools’ reaction to the donations but he hopes they will be delighted. 

The mission has required all three Services on board the ship. There is a team of 20 RNZAF personnel, including air crew and helicopter maintainers, and NZ Army personnel helping get the cargo from ship to shore.

Also aboard are military hydrographers who have been carrying out survey work to assist the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade with a site assessment for a proposed airstrip on Nukunonu atoll.

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