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4000 pleas for help and off to Queensland

Kevin Geard has spent ten years as a volunteer fireman, nine years with the Tairua Volunteer Fire Brigade and the last eighteen months with the Te Aroha Volunteer Fire Brigade.
 |  Lynette Gee  | 
Kevin Geard and members of Taskforce Kiwi
Kevin Geard (right) with members of the Taskforce Kiwi team helping the Disaster Relief Australia team in Queensland; Kevin Geard was deployed by Taskforce Kiwi as a skilled chainsaw operator. Photos Heather Joy photography

Last week he returned from Queensland, Australia, where he had been deployed by Taskforce Kiwi as part of a team to provide tornado and cyclone relief after a devastating Christmas Eve weather event in the area. More than four thousand pleas for help followed the event.

Taskforce Kiwi deploys teams to emergencies in New Zealand and around the World. It is a New Zealand veteran-led disaster relief charity that exists to bridge the gaps in disaster response. Military veterans, and emergency services veterans, such as fire, police, and ambulance personnel, and members of the wider community, can sign up to the organisation offering their skills to help in disasters.

Kevin explained that Taskforce Kiwi members have the skills, experience, motivation, and grit to help communities through direct assistance before, during and after disasters.

They are not first responders, instead working alongside existing emergency management agencies and communities, providing skilled volunteer resources to help others.

“Ten years of service in the fire service has given me skills and confidence to help people on their worst days imaginable,” said Kevin.

The team Kevin was part of was in Australia for eight days.

He was there as a skilled chainsaw operator. The team was there to do rapid assessments. “We were assessing the various situations to see what we could offer and to arrange appropriate crewing. We were quantifying real jobs for the teams that follow us,” he said.

Another crew of kiwis are over there now. Each week a new team will go out to help, until help is no longer needed.

Kevin helped in Hawkes Bay last year following the devastating floods in that area, and while a volunteer with the Tairua Brigade he was part of crew that went to assist the Edgecumbe Fire Brigade in 2017, with clean-up following the collapse of a riverbank, which led to severe flooding in Edgecumbe.

Kevin is very keen to see more people volunteer. He feels a lot of people are put off volunteering for the fire service because they don’t want to attend car accidents or medical emergencies, but he advocates that there are worthwhile reasons to volunteer.

“Volunteering in the Fire Service empowers you by giving you the skills that can be taken out wider if you choose to and that’s the position I’ve ended up in now. I’ve learnt enough with FENZ that I’m now able to use those skills in wider fields. When there’s times of crisis there’s no better times to be helping,” he said.

A number of people in Whitianga have joined Taskforce Kiwi and respond to crises.