Local businesses and community members stepped up in February to support Tauranga Aero Club’s efforts to deliver food and supplies to stranded communities on Te Tairawhiti after the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle.
The result was deliveries of almost forty tonne of food and supplies by truck and aeroplane, much of it to small, isolated communities up and down the Te Tairāwhiti coast and Hawke’s Bay.
Tauranga Aero Club president Darryl Hone said the result of the club’s efforts had been well beyond his wildest imaginings.
“We have been getting amazing feed back for this effort, it is not something we looked for or expected. By 5.30pm on the Sunday we had finally managed to clear our hanger of all the food and supplies donated over the course of the three day campaign.
“We ended up flying 44 flights and also had three truck and trailer units head out fully laden.”
A number of the club’s pilot members contributed their craft, along with two from the aero club itself.
Among them was pilot Greg Missen who was the first flight into Hastings aerodrome on the Friday, to an area still cut off from Napier and running low on supplies.
He said it had been gratifying to be welcomed with smiles of joy when he touched down in his twin engine plane at Hastings aerodrome. Being able to help out had been a vital way to show the people on the coast the Bay of Plenty coast communities were thinking about them, he said.
Fellow pilot Kalarn Mark flew his family’s 172 Cessna Skyhawk over the Raukumara ranges into remote Ruatoria.
His was the first supply drop that community had since Gabrielle took out the bridge south, leaving only State Highway 35 around East Cape accessible.
At 17 and the holder of several national flying competition awards, the day had proven an invaluable experience for adding valuable hours to his log, and on a personal level in appreciating the impact such an event had upon communities.
Daryl Hone said there were numerous Tauranga businesses the club had to thank for their efforts who had committed funds and resources to the supply drive.
“We had Warehouse Tauranga put up funds for us to buy food, particularly noodle meals that are easy to fly and easy to eat, we had the Bake Shack at the Mount provide dinner and lunch for the aero club volunteers, completely free of charge.
We also had Brett Marsh Transport and Wetherell Transport donate truck units and drivers for runs down there, and Pacific Autos supply a smaller truck for a run to Te Karaka which had been hit really hard.”
Hone said the club was also grateful to those who had donating funds which could be used to help pay for the fuel used on the east coast sorties.