NZ Army plumber Sapper (SPR) Matt Nieper standing in front of a recently repaired medical clinic at Port Kwmei on Epi Island in Vanuatu.
10 April 2015
Cromwell College old-boy and now New Zealand Army engineer Mathew Nieper has spent the last week working hard to restore water on the cyclone ravaged islands of Vanuatu.
The 28-year-old Sapper (SPR) was born and bred in Central Otago and joined the Army two years ago, already a qualified plumber. He said he had always wanted to join but left it a bit later than most.
"This kind of work is much more rewarding than plumbing a house at home," said SPR Nieper.
"My main role in Vanuatu is to reinstate the water supply to the communities. I'm repairing current infrastructure and installing new systems like rain water harvesting and increased storage capacity.
"It's really good to get things sorted and water back on for the villages, the local people are all really grateful. When we arrived the infrastructure was in a bad condition and was very old so the cyclone really affected it," he said.
Firefighters and health teams are also working alongside the New Zealand Defence Force with the relief effort. SPR Nieper is familiar with the New Zealand Fire Service Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team having once been a fireman.
"The language has been a barrier at times but I've managed to get by and work with the locals who make our jobs a lot easier by showing us water supplies, water sources and damaged pipes," he said.
It's all part of a very different experience for him working in the heat, on the remote islands of Vanuatu. Here he has few resources and must improvise with the equipment he has, and find locally sourced items to get tasks completed.
"The whole trip has been a highlight of my Army career so far. Travelling on the Navy ship HMNZS CANTERBURY, finding solutions to get water going and seeing the improvement we are making to the quality of life here, it's been great," SPR Nieper said.
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