Tuesday 21 February, 2023
Over the past few days a search and rescue team consisting of police and a St John paramedic were helicoptered into around 40 isolated families around Tairāwhiti.
The main message back was “everyone’s ok”.
“We didn’t know what we were flying into or what they had in the way of supplies.
“We just knew they were cut off and we went to make contact,” said Search and Rescue police constable Tina Zabern.
Constable Zabern travelled from Tauranga to join two other constables from Canterbury, one from Gisborne, a St John paramedic and a pilot for the search and rescue team.
“Wherever we landed, we’d ask them how others were getting on. They’d let us know who was at the next-door farm and we’d check on them too.”
Sometimes they spent only 10 minutes on the ground to get a needs assessment form filled out then it was back in the air to the next home.
Constable Zabern said some families already had food parcels dropped off and the main requirement was fuel.
“Some had power and some didn’t, and some had generators but were getting low on fuel.
“One guy was alone on his farm, he’d only bought it three weeks ago and his family was still in town. He was already out helping to clear the road.
“It’s an amazing community out this way.
“Everyone’s ok, they’re looking after each other, checking on their neighbours.
“The only communication they had was two-way radios. And about three or four homes had Starlink.
Constable Zabern said it was heartening to see how everyone was banding together to look out for each other.
“It’s the resilience of farmers out there. They’re cut off but they’re hardy, happy and doing what they need to do – they’re in good spirits.
“A lot of them had already made it out on quad bikes through the backs of their properties.
“There was a high level of preparedness among them.
“One family had their quad bike at a safe spot so they could use that to get to their car, which was on the other side of the bridge.”
Constable Zabern said having a paramedic on board was invaluable.
“Their presence was hugely valuable because we had the right person to provide medical advice and reassurance.
“We did not need to rescue anyone.”
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Pictures provided by the Police team: