One of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) newly acquired fleet of Seasprite helicopters will help transport 23 government staff and about seven tonnes of vital equipment and supplies to the remote Kermadec Islands on its first operational mission with an offshore patrol vessel (OPV).
An SH-2G (I) Seasprite, one of eight that are being introduced into service this year, has joined the Royal New Zealand Navy’s HMNZS Otago on a resupply mission to the Kermadec Islands from 12-23 September.
“Although the newer-model Seasprite was deployed on a frigate for a multilateral exercise in June, their deployment on an OPV is a major step forward in increasing the NZDF’s ability to support other government agencies in New Zealand and in the Pacific region. This also marks a major milestone in the modernisation of the Navy’s fleet,” Captain Dave McEwan, the Acting Maritime Component Commander, said.
Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Andrew Sorensen, the Commanding Officer of Otago, said the ship’s first stop would be at Macauley Island, where the Seasprite will drop off a Department of Conservation (DoC) representative and two dogs trained to detect rats and other pests.
Otago will travel next to Raoul Island, to resupply the DoC outpost there. About seven tonnes of goods, including food supplies, general equipment and a light utility vehicle, will be flown to the island in underslung loads.
National Maritime Coordination Centre manager Kevin Arlidge said the Seasprite’s deployment with an offshore patrol vessel would allow them to reach more inaccessible and remote parts of the Kermadecs and would widen the scope of the NZDF’s work in support of DoC and GNS Science.
Fourteen DoC staff, including mechanics, builders and specialists involved in the agency’s weed-eradication programme, will be flown from the ship to Raoul Island by the Seasprite.
Otago is also transporting three MetService personnel, who will carry out routine maintenance work on the automatic weather station on the island, two electronic technicians and three commercial divers from GNS Science, who will check the tsunami gauges, seismograph and Global Positioning System equipment, and a volcano chemist, who will check the volcano and crater lakes for seismic activity.
“The tsunami gauges are the first line of defence against tsunamis and are vital for public safety in New Zealand,” GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott said. “The seismograph and GPS help GNS monitor for large earthquakes and submarine volcanic eruptions. So without NZDF support, we may not be able to keep this going.”
MetService staff will also install a lightning detection sensor on the island to serve as an early detection and warning system to mitigate against lightning hazards.
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