Kiwis take up bushfire battle

From left, In Australia to fight the bushfires are, from right, Puhoi Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Mike Donovan, with Auckland crew members Martin Duytshoff, Chris Southwick, and Joseph Ineson. Table tennis fundraisers, from left, Callum Lockie and Flynn McIntyre.

Hibiscus Coast residents and businesses banded together to fight the devastating and widespread Australian bushfires, both through fundraising at home and volunteering their services in the thick of the fires.

Puhoi Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Mike Donovan has been deployed twice to Australia since November – once to Queensland and once to New South Wales – and was the Auckland Crew leader on both deployments. Puhoi station officer Rod Beardmore was also deployed to New South Wales in December. Each deployment lasts around two weeks.

Mike says steep country proved to be one of the toughest challenges for firefighters to stamp out smaller, isolated, fires.

“We were climbing 600 metres up ridges on our hands and knees. But if you don’t get up there and put out those hotspots then the fire keeps spreading,” he says.

A special moment was defending a farmhouse in Queensland, which was being approached by fire on three sides.

Luckily, Mike’s fire crew was in the area, equipped with two fire trucks and 5000 litres of water. They successfully removed the combustible material from around the house and hosed away the approaching flames within the hour they had to do so.

Even following his deployments, Mike says he is ready to return to Australia if called.
“There’s a brotherhood among firefighters and our Australian brothers and sisters are really struggling at the moment,” he says.

“I guess a lot of people refer to it as the Anzac spirit. It’s alive and well, and it’s overwhelming the treatment we get when we are over there.”

Back at home, thousands of dollars has been raised for Australian organisations.

The Whangaparāoa Veterinary Centre “stood with their fellow clinics in Australia” by raising $8235 in just three days.

Another $2000 worth of supplies, including handmade joey pouches, leads and nappies, were also donated to the centre, and sent to Australia on January 9.

Millwater 15 year-olds, Callum Lockie and Flynn McIntyre, played table tennis for 12 hours straight on January 14, and encouraged donations by livestreaming the event on Facebook. Their efforts raised $2800 for Red Cross Australia.

“It was pretty tough for the first few hours, but then we had visitors throughout the day until the end, which made it go way faster,” Callum says. “Our legs definitely felt it the morning after though.”

Ten local businesses, including hosts Little Beautique, held an art and beauty themed fundraiser on January 19.

Around 70 people came to enjoy the services offered, which included hand-poked tattoos and massages, as well as a bake sale, sausage sizzle and an appearance from firefighters from the Manly Volunteer Fire Brigade.

The $2680 these businesses raised was donated to the New South Wales rural fire service, Wildlife Victoria and the Australian Red Cross.

Several other businesses, including Magnolia Kitchen and Rarity Roses, have also been fundraising, and countless locals have shared donation links online.

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