Media Coverage: North initiative urges travellers to lend a hand in the Pacific

Media Coverage: North initiative urges travellers to lend a hand in the PacificMedia Coverage: The Northern Advocate

North initiative urges travellers to lend a hand in the Pacific

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A new Northland-based initiative is giving a helping hand to emergency services in the Pacific islands.

Heroworx organises “voluntourism” and fundraising tours as well as connecting companies and sports teams travelling to the islands with fire and ambulance crews who need help.

It was started by Paihia man Peter Barry, a former travel agent and game fishing boat operator with close ties to the Cook Islands.

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Puaikura Fire Brigade on Rarotonga needs a shed to keep its fire engines out of the weather

Also on board is St John paramedic and former Paihia fire chief Shane Schrafft, who has been providing defibrillators – a device used to re-start stopped hearts – and training to Rarotonga for several years.

Mr Barry got the idea after seeing a photo taken on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, of a World War II-era jeep with a mattress in the back used as an ambulance.

If got him thinking about how he could extend the work already being done by Mr Schrafft and his wife Robyn to other parts of the Pacific.

“We’re saying, go there and have a holiday, enjoy their hospitality, spend money in the bars and all the rest of it, but also give a thought to the first responders and give something back.”

Northlanders holidaying in the islands would benefit too because they relied on local first responders if they fell ill or fell off a motorcycle.

Mr Barry was starting the ball rolling with a fishing challenge in Rarotonga organised with an established travel firm. Called Busted and Bruised, the tournament would end with an auction of donated fishing gear he hoped would raise more than $6000.

The money would help pay for a covered bay for Puaikura Volunteer Fire Brigade in Arorangi, Rarotonga, so the fire engines could be protected from the weather. A modular shed would be shipped from New Zealand with Heroworx helping to assemble it.

Mr Barry said another initiative involved matching up companies travelling to a resort for a conference, or sports teams heading to the islands for a game, with emergency services in the same area in need of help.

That assistance could take the form of new uniforms or equipment, or funding ambulances officers’ travel to New Zealand for training – “all the things they don’t get from the government”.

He hoped to extend the programme to Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and outer islands of Fiji.

Meanwhile, Rarotonga now has about 20 defibrillators. Six have been brought over by Mr and Mrs Schrafft, who sought the funding and provided training.

Two more are on their way and will be used by the airport crash and fire crew. The Schraffts will travel to Rarotonga next month to train firefighters in their use.

That initiative was started by former High Commissioner John Carter, now Far North mayor, after his predecessor suffered a heart attack. At the time there were no defibrillators on the island.