An epic eight-day effort three weeks ago saw fourteen pallets of donated goods head from Southland to Auckland on Tyler Wainui’s freight truck. The gruelling 1600 km journey was hampered by road works and restrictions, but the pallets had to get through; they contained essential items for the cyclone devastated communities of the Hawkes Bay.
SIT – Business Division of Te Pūkenga, was offered as a drop-off point for the aid donations during student orientation week. Jodi Conway, Team Leader of Student Support Services, says SIT got involved after she saw on social media, local transport company, Wainui Transport Ltd/Mainfreight, were organising a shipment of much needed resources to take to Hawkes Bay as part of the Cyclone Gabrielle relief effort.
Ms Conway said the devastation was close to home for her, with whanau in Hastings, Napier, Wairoa and Mahia Peninsula. “It was a nerve-racking time ensuring all of our whanau were safe and hence, we wanted to contribute.”
Kaimahi (staff) across SIT and the wider community contributed mostly with much needed, urgent supplies, such as toiletries and some medical supplies. The donated goods were gathered by SIT’s Student Support Services team at the main Invercargill campus, who sorted through items, packaged and labelled them, then delivered the goods to Wainui Transport.
The comments coming in with the donations indicated Southlanders were keen to help in any way they could:
“We just moved from the Waikato and we live in Fortrose and had to do something.”
“This reminds me of the Southland ‘84 floods, I’m only too happy to help.”
“Hugely grateful to offer some form of hope to others in need, it’s heart-breaking.”
Tyler Wainui of Wainui Transport Ltd. said he was “pretty humbled” with the response from Southland/Otago and the level of generosity shown towards friends, family and all those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle on the East Coast. “A lot of people down here felt like they were sitting on their hands and not able to do anything,” he said.
With family in the area – the Wainuis are originally from Gisborne – Mr Wainui was in contact with the community, and knew exactly what they needed. “We also knew they weren’t necessarily getting what they needed,” he said. Mr Wainui is a truck driver contracted to Mainfreight, “I do a run through to Auckland every week”, and felt he had the means to get aid through to those communities. “This was something we could do to help,” he added.
Mr Wainui said what originally started as something small – a simple request for donations of goods on the transport business’s Facebook page - rapidly grew by word of mouth and sharing. Within a short time frame, “There were over 360 shares ... it was huge! I thought, mate, what have I done?” Although it was overwhelming, he says it was also amazing as support came from all directions of the Southland community. “Schools, clubs, businesses, the DHB got on board as well.”
The mercy dash couldn’t have happened without the support he received from Mainfreight, said Mr Wainui. “I approached the Mainfreight Invercargill team with the idea and they were on board, donating the pallets.”
The 14 pallets were loaded on Monday 27th February, and the truck departed for Auckland later that day. It was an eight-day turnaround, from putting the call out for donations, to departure from Invercargill. Because Mr Wainui was unable to deliver the goods directly, the aid still had another 5 - 600 km to go to reach Gisborne, but Mainfreight colleagues stepped in to help get the essentials delivered.
“The boys at Mainfreight Hobsonville have come to the party. We should get those pallets through, three or four at a time on a smaller truck. The big trucks can’t get through,” Mr Wainui explained. The first pallets were due to reach the Te Karaka area in the first week of March, weather and roads permitting, he said.
There were still another two pallets of goods in Invercargill – the donations had kept coming in from people who didn’t know the appeal had closed – which Mr Wainui would deliver on the next available run.
Mr Wainui wanted to extend a massive thanks to all their business partners, community groups, clubs and schools. “Thank you all so much for the hard mahi you’ve done to create this incredible gesture of support from the East Coast’s southernmost neighbours in such a short turnaround!”