Victoria Cross recipient, Willie Apiata, has raised more than $200,000 for the people of Ngāti Porou hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle.
Personnel from Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and New Zealand Army joined the former Special Air Service soldier at an auction in Auckland last week to raise funds for the rebuild following the cyclone.
A wide range of guests and bidders heard from speakers including Sir Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Black Fern Ruahei Demant and they also got the opportunity to talk to members of the NZDF about their experiences responding to Cyclone Gabrielle.
“Ngāti Porou has been doing incredible mahi assisting those impacted. They are my whānau. We moved to Te Kaha when I was seven years old and I’ve been looked after by Ngāti Porou ever since, and now this is a way that I can show my appreciation and support the community until it’s thriving again,” Mr Apiata said.
“Ngāti Porou need our help and we must keep the story of the East Coast alive. We have an opportunity to build a sustainable recovery. We need to come together to support the future and way of life for the East Coast and its people.”
The live and silent auctions included a replica of Mr Apiata’s Victoria Cross medallion, a copy of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral programme signed by recipients of the Victoria Cross and a Special Air Service brooch and book.
Works by New Zealand artists Steve Baker, Tom Gould, Derek Henderson, Holly Burgess and Finn Cochran were also auctioned, along with a signed Black Ferns rugby jersey.
A photographic portrait of Mr Apiata on his horse ‘Blue’ raised $35,000.
“This portrait featuring my horse Blue is very special to me. I have 13 horses. Wild horses have taught me so much,” he said.
At the height of the response to Cyclone Gabrielle, the NZDF had nearly 1,000 personnel, along with several ships, aircraft, and numerous military vehicles involved.
“The tireless and unstinting service of our NZDF personnel in response to Cyclone Gabrielle really underpins our core values and I am humbled by the mahi of our people for the greater good of New Zealanders,” Warrant Officer of the Navy, Lance Graham said.
“Supporting this fundraiser event was another way we can continue to show our service to those affected by the cyclone.”
Corporal Storm Harrison from NZ Army 5/7 Battalion is Ngāpuhi, the Northland-based iwi, and was at the forefront of the NZDF Cyclone Gabrielle response.
“Willie’s invitation to help the people of Ngāti Porou affected by the floods is immense. NZDF personnel did such a tremendous job to help Tairāwhiti at the time and now we can help with this. It really is humbling,” he said.