Address at Whakaari Whakamaumahara/Whakaari Memorial Event
Ms Amy Guihot, Deputy Head of Mission, Australian High Commission to New Zealand
9 December 2022
Te Mānuka Tūtahi Marae, Muriwai Drive, Whakatāne
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, tēnā tātou katoa
Today, we join with Aotearoa New Zealand to honour those who lost their lives and to reflect on the resilience of those who survived the Whakaari White Island volcano eruption.
I acknowledge Ngāti Awa and especially the manaakitanga provided by them in the days following the eruption – providing a safe haven for families and community, food and comfort to hundreds of people.
I acknowledge Minister Kiritapu Allan, survivors, families of survivors and other distinguished guests.
Australia remembers the 22 people who lost their lives and the 25 people who were severely injured three years ago.
Our thoughts are with the survivors and their loved ones, many of whom are here today. We join with you in your grief.
Australia continues to feel deep gratitude to our Aotearoa New Zealand friends who provided assistance to the Australians affected by this disaster.
I extend my respect and thanks to a number of agencies:
The New Zealand Police; Whakatāne Fire Brigade and Fire & Emergency NZ; St John Ambulance; hospital staff; Emergency Management Bay of Plenty, Whakatāne and Bay of Plenty Regional Councils and of course, the helicopter pilots and crew who bravely assisted in the hours that followed the eruption.
This was one of the most significant consular events Australia has ever managed in New Zealand, and our governments worked side by side in their response.
Former Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne activated Australia’s overseas mass casualty plan on 10 December. Australia’s response was led by National Emergency Management Australia.
Officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Crisis Response Team were deployed to New Zealand, and specialist consular staff responded to hundreds of calls from people seeking updates on their family and friends.
For their involvement in the repatriation of injured Australians, I would like to acknowledge Australian Border Force, the Department of Health, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force.
Three Royal Australian Air Force aircraft were deployed to New Zealand flying to Christchurch and Hamilton with a team of specialist medical staff and equipment on board.
The New South Wales and Victorian state governments also provided aircraft to medically evacuate injured Australians from New Zealand to hospitals in Australia.
This was a multi community, multi agency and multi country response. I express Australia’s deep appreciation to all involved.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.