Snippets from the region - Autumn 2019

New Zealand Red Cross staff and members are doing amazing work all over Aotearoa. Let’s look at what’s been happening in the regions.


Disaster Welfare and Support Team (DWST) members from Auckland and Whangarei. 

The Whangarei Disaster Welfare and Support Team (DWST) met its Auckland counterparts in Kaiwaka in late August for an exercise which involved evacuating 30 people from a flood scenario. The teams worked cohesively together, displaying the benefits of national training modules.

After lunch, an incident command post (ICP) for field operations was set up in the back of the RC01 Red Cross truck. Teams were deployed to take part in varying tasks, including setting up a radio repeater, basic first aid, rapid reconnaissance, disaster preparedness leaflet drops, rural outreach and the setup of recon, generators and lighting. 

Overall, the exercise was a huge success, continuing the strong relationship between the two teams and providing a good opportunity to practise for a real-life scenario.

Waikato/Bay of Plenty

The 23rd annual Hamilton Book Fair at Te Rapa Racecourse. 

In late June, the Hamilton Service Centre collaborated with Waikato Refugee Forum to put on a successful World Refugee Day event in commemoration of the strength, courage and perseverance of former refugees in our communities. There was dance, music and food, and one young lady delivered a powerful speech on ‘What defines a refugee.’

The popular Hamilton Annual Book Fair took place in early September at Te Rapa Racecourse. Now in its 23rd year, the Book Fair is one of the biggest fundraising events in Red Cross’ calendar. A massive range of quality books are donated by locals, and a dedicated team of volunteers and staff work tirelessly to raise funds to support the work Red Cross does around Aotearoa.

East Coast/Wairarapa

Toasty slippers made by Wairarapa's Knitter Knatter group. 

The knitting group at the Wairarapa Branch has kept busy this winter supplying local schools with toasty slippers and the wider community with jumpers, blankets and beanies. The service centre’s administrator, Alison Keegan, recently held a morning tea to thank the Knitter Knatter group for their contribution to Red Cross and the community.

In early August, the International Humanitarian Law Art Competition and Quiz took place at Iona College in Havelock North. This aligned with the 70th Anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Nine teams from five schools took part, with an Iona College team winning the quiz. Seven entries competed in the art competition. The powerful winning entry was also from Iona College.


The Migration team in Palmerston North has started a craft group.

In the past year, the Migration team in Palmerston North has started a craft group for former refugee women which has become a huge success. “It gives women an opportunity to get out of the house and join other women for two and a half hours of creativity, laughter and whole-hearted enjoyment,” says Red Cross Community Activator, Fiona Cain.

Fiona says new friendships have been formed and it’s clearly very enriching for all who attend. The focus has predominantly been on sewing but women can spend the time painting, knitting or on any craft they feel like doing. The group started by making bunting for a community event organised by a local organisation, and since then the popularity has grown significantly.

“The group meet every Friday at Central Library and key members from the Afghan community who attend every week have started a small start-up business. They sell the bunting through the local plastic free shop – Be Free Grocer,” Fiona explains.


A performance from the Newtown School Kapa Haka Group.

In Wellington, about 140 people attended the Celebration of Culture event in June to mark World Refugee Day. Activities included face painting, paper planes, rock painting, a potato and spoon race and dancing. Attendees were encouraged to mix, mingle and connect across all the diverse groups at the event.

Prior to lunch, Dennis Maang, Red Cross’ National Settlement Advisor, delivered a speech to guests. This was followed by a performance from the Newtown School Kapa Haka Group (pictured). A second speaker, Sergeant Phil Pithyou, Ethnic Liaison Coordinator at New Zealand Police, also spoke. It was a relaxed, welcoming and friendly atmosphere where newly arrived Wellingtonians from refugee backgrounds met with Red Cross members and volunteers from the community.


Community Transport volunteer David Spokes with Jess Bisch.

The Nelson Service Centre will be honouring the work of their front of house volunteers with a morning tea in October. Humanitarian Development Engagement Manager, Jesse Bisch, says the group of dedicated and friendly volunteers provide amazing administration support during weekday mornings, which allows staff to take on other tasks.

“The staff here can’t say enough about how helpful and delightful it is to have them here every day of the week,” Jesse says.

Many of the volunteers are also involved with other Red Cross programmes, whether that’s helping to settle former refugees or being a Community Transport driver. David, one of the drivers, is pictured here with Jesse, after receiving an award from Age Concern for his work. 

Richmond’s Red Cross Shop has also been awarded top shop by our retail team. Make sure you head along to the store and see the great work staff and members have been doing.

Christchurch/West Coast

Niamh Lawless meets members of the Greymouth branch.

New Zealand Red Cross’ Secretary General, Niamh Lawless, visited branch members and volunteers on the West Coast in early September. The first stop was Westport, where Niamh met with Area Chair Christine Berry, and attended a shared lunch with members including Meals on Wheels and Community Transport volunteers. She then went to Greymouth to visit the West Coast Service Centre. Niamh then headed south to Hokitika and shared dinner with local DWST and branch members.

In Christchurch, the first aid team recently launched their first ever catalogue, which explains the amazing products and services New Zealand Red Cross offer. “With this new catalogue, we can now confidently say that Red Cross has the most comprehensive range of first aid products in New Zealand,” says Marcus Bird, Product Development Manager.



A football club is helping former refugees from Colombia settle in Invercargill. Every Saturday of the season a group of Colombian men aged 15 to 53 played for Queens Park’s division two team. At the end of the season, the team were declared Division 2 champions, and at the club’s prizegiving, members were honoured with a signed and framed Colombian flag. They were also awarded ‘Team of the Year.’

Dunedin DWST members recently conducted a 24-hourlong rescue training exercise based on the scenario of a plane crash at Waitati. The team searched the steep, bush-covered hills south of the township, set up a welfare and information centre and conducted a search and rescue operation with a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)equipped helicopter.