Department of Conservation Anitpodes trip on hold after cyclone in Fiji
The Department of Conservation have had to reshuffle their plans for a mice eradication trip to the Antipodes Islands after the navy ship providing assistance was diverted to cyclone-ravaged Fiji.
HMNZS Canterbury departed on the weekend for the island nation to provide humanitarian aid, where the Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston has left 42 dead so far.
DOC Murihiku operations manager Tony Preston said although it was frustrating for the staff involved, their sympathies lay entirely with the people of Fiji.
The HMNZS Canterbury was set to depart from Lyttelton on February 25 to carry out set up work crucial to the mouse eradication programme, Preston said.
There was the understanding that the HMNZS Canterbury was the standby boat for cyclone relief, he said.
No one could have predicted that a a category five cyclone would hit Fiji four days before DOC were set to leave, he said.
"We're working on contingency plans at the moment."
It was the second time that DOC have had to postpone plans because of a cyclone.
Originally the eradication project was meant to take place in 2015 but it was put of until 2016 after the HMNZS Canterbury was called to assist after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu.
The crew that would have departed last week were heading down to build a helicopter hangar to house two squirrel helicopters that would be used during the eradication project.
Phase one could still be carried out but it would require the HMNZS Canterbury to be back and ready to sail on March 16, Preston said.
"We're not overly optimistic about that, their focus needs to remain in Fiji."
The preparation work was ahead of the June start date for the eradication.
DOC did have a contingency plan in place where the whole operation would be brought forward from June 1 to May 24, Preston said.
"It puts a bit of pressure on the team."
There were several other projects relating to heritage and maintenance on the Campbell and Auckland islands, but they would have to be postponed until next year, Preston said.