11 April 2018
Eight Gisborne sailors are hard at work in Canada, helping unpack the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) frigate HMNZS Te Kaha in preparation for an upgrade.
After a stop-off in Hawaii on the way to Canada the sailors are now in British Colombia, as part of the crew readying Te Kaha for her year-long frigate systems upgrade with Lockheed Martin Canada, replacing combat system equipment that is 20 years old. The majority of the crew will return home after ship is “destored”, which is expected to take about two months.
The Gisborne contingent includes Petty Officer Communications Warfare Specialist (POCWS) Candi Fox, who grew up on a farm in Whangara and joined the RNZN after talking to a recruiter. After 10 years of service she has returned the favour by influencing other young men and women in Gisborne to sign up. She encouraged a cousin, who joined as a Navy Steward. She also had an influence on Mahia Morton, of Wainui Beach, after going to her school to speak to a Gateway class. The young Morton was hooked, and is now a Physical Training Instructor on Te Kaha.
Also from Whangara, and now serving on Te Kaha, is Able Steward Journee Haapu, who wanted to explore the world outside Gisborne. Like POCWS Fox, he talked to recruiters, who recommended the RNZN if he wanted to see other countries.
Haylee Nuku knew POCWS Fox because she went to the same school as her sister. She had an uncle who used to be a chef in the RNZN, and she liked the idea of some sibling rivalry with her brother, who joined the Army. She is now a Leading Stores Accountant on Te Kaha.
Before her posting on Te Kaha, POCWS Fox was a training instructor for Able Medic Max Neustroski, who followed his brother into the RNZN. Growing up in Gisborne, Able Medic Neustroski loved the ocean and was a surf lifesaver. He did not want a student loan and now, after four years of training, both brothers are qualified medics.
Travel was very much on the mind of Able Stores Accountant Sarah Puha, of Tikitiki. Her sister used to be in the RNZN as a Stores Accountant, and Able Stores Accountant Puha followed the same course. She has been to Tokyo, Singapore, Guam and Cairns, and has now added Hawaii and Canada to that list.
The Gisborne contingent includes two “old hands”: the ship’s Command Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer Marine Technician (WOMT) Des Rangiwai, and Warrant Officer Marine Technician Neil McIntosh. WOMT Rangiwai, from Frasertown, wanted something different from farming and in 1989 rode on his motorbike to see recruiters, with a view to joining as a mechanic. WOMT McIntosh applied for a civilian mechanics course and to join the RNZN, and got a phone call in 1999 saying there was a Marine Technician post open, if he joined the next day.