Help on the way – by air

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By Maureen Bishop

Experience gained in an aid operation following the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, led to a slick operation being put in place in Ashburton just hours after the earthquake in North Canterbury.

During 2011, Trevor and Jane Hurley and a support crew, fed, clothed and provided essential supplies for Christchurch people in the suburbs in a project known as Trev’s BBQ.

The couple have stepped up again to co-ordinate help for Kaikoura residents and visitors.

A Facebook post drew an immediate response from Mid Canterbury Aero Club pilot Terry Hewitt who offered to fly any supplies to Kaikoura.

Then the project snowballed. A second club pilot, Ian Begbie offered his help – and a third, Arch King, from Air Rangitata. A bank account was established. Food collection centres were set up at Ashburton supermarkets and Paddy and Marie Kennedy from the Allenton Meat Centre joined the aid effort.

“We knew we had to get in straight away,” Mr Hurley said.

The first flights were made the day after the earthquake, with two flights a day made last week when weather permitted.

As other help arrived in to Kaikoura, flights were scaled back to one a day this week, carrying special donation requests. The situation will be reassessed at the end of this week.

Mr Hurley knew from the Christchurch experience that agencies could quickly become bogged down dealing with offers of donated goods, so he made contact with the Takahanga Marae, which was feeding and accommodating hundreds of people, both residents and tourists.

Each day the marae sent him a text with a list of supplies needed – nappies and baby formula, towels and trackpants, socks and underwear, toilet paper and sunscreen, pet food and of course, bread and water.

The Mid Canterbury community backed the venture with donations of cash and goods, volunteers from the Ashburton Aviation Museum and Community House delivered goods from supermarkets to the airport where Wilson’s Transport provided refrigerator container storage.

Donations can still be made in to the Trev’s BBQ Earthquake Relief account at Westpac, number 03-0835-0023227-000.

Aviation fuel costs have added up to about $4,500 so far and sponsorship is being sought to cover this cost.

Thousands of kilograms of supplies have been flown in with each trip carrying about 300kg.

Thanks for the efforts to get goods into Kaikoura have come from both the Kaikoura District Council and Te Taumatua, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu.

“A huge thank you to the Ashburton community for your wonderful support in a real time of need,” said Natalie Telford from the district council. “You provided food and supplies when things were very difficult here in Kaikoura.”

Lynne Te Aika said the work of Trev’s BBQ had been essential to the work of Takahanga Marae.

Without the supplies brought in on the flights the marae could not have serviced the Kaikoura community as it did, she said. The marae distributed over 8000 meals and 500 food parcels in the first six days after the quake.