Whanganui Local Hard at Work in Vanuatu

LT Robin Kuhn at work aboard HMNZS CANTERBURY
LT Robin Kuhn at work aboard HMNZS CANTERBURY

6 April 2015

Whanganui local Navy Lieutenant (LT) Robin Kuhn makes moving hundreds of tonnes of aid from HMNZS CANTERBURY to the shores of cyclone-torn Vanuatu look like light work.

The 29-year-old's family are originally from South Africa. When he was 12 they moved to Whanganui, where he attended St Dominic’s and then Wanganui High School.

Now he is a Navy hydrographer and is playing a key role in the New Zealand Defence Force’s humanitarian aid and disaster relief effort in Vanuatu in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

HMNZS CANTERBURY arrived in Vanuatu laden with vital stores and equipment including more than 150 tonnes of food and water, over 200 NZDF personnel, 40 Army vehicles and two Seasprite helicopters. LT Kuhn's job is to ensure that the aid is landed safely, often in challenging conditions.

Transfer ashore has to be by landing craft, and LT Kuhn is a member of the Maritime Hydrographic Survey Team responsible for surveying and analysing potential landing sites and reporting back to the ship to plan delivery.

"We go ashore to make our assessments, then brief back to the ship on information such as weather, the make-up of the beach, tides, windows for landing, safety considerations and type of craft suitable,” LT Kuhn said.

“I just finished a hydrographic course in Australia in December, so this is a great opportunity to put theory into practice," he said.

LT Kuhn said that getting away from his desk, off the ship, and seeing the NZDF’s skills and capabilities applied in a real-life situation and making such a positive difference has been the most rewarding part of the operation.

He and his team have been among the first people ashore since the cyclone hit on many of the smaller islands.

“It has been pretty eye-opening. There is often very little greenery - the trees are stripped of branches and many communities have been destroyed.

“The locals are friendly and very welcoming. They are pleased to see us, have helped us get our gear up the beaches and are sharing their local knowledge of the environment with us, and that’s been really helpful," he said.


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This page was last reviewed on 7 April 2015.