8 August 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has airdropped 3.1 tonnes of food, mail and equipment to support the work of government agencies on Raoul Island.
Air Commodore Tim Walshe, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft dropped supplies yesterday to support operations of the Department of Conservation (DOC), MetService and GNS Science on the remote island, which is 1,100 kilometres north north-east of the North island.
“Our Defence Force has supported the work of other government agencies in the Kermadecs for years. We recognise that their work is important for our country’s biosecurity and public safety, and for scientific advancement,” Air Commodore Walshe said.
About 2.5 tonnes of the supplies consisted of cement, which will be used to install new equipment to improve safety with the weather balloon programme undertaken by DOC for MetService.
MetService network observations manager Steve Knowles said data received from the balloons contributed to global weather models and the tracking of tropical cyclones in the southwest Pacific.
The aircraft also dropped 570 kilograms of equipment and supplies for DOC and 60 kilograms of communications equipment for GNS Science.
Flight Lieutenant Tristan Nysse, the co-pilot of the Hercules, said the heavy pallets were dropped from 1300-1600 feet and the lighter ones from 300 feet while the aircraft was travelling 140 to 150 nautical miles an hour.
“Raoul Island’s drop zone poses particular challenges because it is small and bordered on both sides by a cliff and the sea,” Flight Lieutenant Nysse said.
“Even in favourable weather conditions, as we had yesterday, airdrops are technically complex, but given the location of the drop zone precision was more crucial than ever yesterday.”
For the six government staff who are currently based on Raoul Island, the NZDF is their main means of getting food, supplies or mail.
To support New Zealand government agencies operating in the Kermadecs, the NZDF sends a Royal New Zealand Navy vessel to conduct resupply missions to Raoul Island twice a year.
In addition, RNZAF aircraft on scheduled flights to the Pacific sometimes airdrop supplies.