Rescue from Rangitāhua/Raoul Island

As New Zealanders stay home to save lives this Easter, some had an interesting journey home to observe the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown in their bubbles.

The Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Canterbury and crew collected six Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers from Rangitāhua/Raoul Island and staff from the NZ Met Service and GNS, where they have been carrying out important pest control, biodiversity, monitoring and maintenance work in the remote Kermadec Islands group for the past 12 months.

“The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) provides invaluable support for the Department of Conservation’s work in remote and difficult to access places, especially remote offshore islands. The New Zealand Defence Force pulled out all the stops to get everyone home from Rangitāhua/Raoul Island for COVID-19 Alert Level 4. The swift manoeuvres of the HMNZS Canterbury are very much appreciated,” Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage said.

“It was very rewarding to be able to assist our colleagues in the Department of Conservation, NZ Met Service and GNS. To be able to help our colleagues get back to their families in these uncertain times was particularly important to me and my Ship’s Company, and to be able to put our training to use in a real life situation was fantastic,”  Commanding Officer HMNZS CANTERBURY, Commander Martin Walker, RNZN said.

Department of Conservation (DOC) workers were in good spirits after their quick journey home, returning to Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base. The crew of HMNZS Canterbury were not permitted to depart the ship in Auckland due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“NZDF’s continued logistical support for DOC’s operations make a major contribution to conservation, whether it is on remote offshore islands or on the mainland such as Operation Tidy Fox,” Eugenie Sage said.

All DOC tracks, huts, campgrounds and other facilities are closed under COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

Elsewhere around New Zealand Department of Conservation staff worked hard to help trampers, hunters and other backcountry users get home for COVID-19 Alert Level 4.  

Departmental staff endeavoured to contact anyone on the tracks who may have been unaware of the COVID-19 Alert Level 4, so they could get home.

On Rakiura/Stewart Island DOC staff helped 90 hunters, trampers and other visitors on the island to leave via helicopter, fixed wing planes and boats.

In Kahurangi National Park, 12 trampers and a hut warden were helicoptered to the end of the Heaphy Track. They were assisted by local transport and accommodation providers to either find a place to stay, or to get to where they would stay for the lockdown.  

“A systematic approach to checking backcountry huts, hunting block booking applications and liaising with local transport operators ensured we got good coverage and made sure everyone was home safely,” Aaron Fleming, DOC Director Operations, Southern South Island said.