Sounds Air delivers for Kaikōura

Sounds Air  transported ballot boxes from Kaikōura to Blenheim on Sunday morning.
RICKY WILSON/STUFF

Sounds Air transported ballot boxes from Kaikōura to Blenheim on Sunday morning.

The Electoral Commission has been forced to think outside the box to transport ballot boxes from the Kaikōura township to Blenheim for counting.

State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Kaikōura has been closed  since the November earthquake, and the highway between Kaikōura and Christchurch was closed on Friday because of slips.

So the Electoral Commission chartered special flights with Sounds Air to pick up the ballot boxes from Kaikōura - one to deliver the early votes on Friday, and one to transport election day votes on Sunday.

But even that plan was not foolproof.

Kaikōura electorate returning officer Simon Caley said poor visibility prevented the Sounds Air plane from landing on Friday.

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The plane was unable to land in Kaikōura on Friday, but successfully landed there on Sunday morning.
RICKY WILSON/STUFF

The plane was unable to land in Kaikōura on Friday, but successfully landed there on Sunday morning.

"Fortunately, SH1 reopened on Friday afternoon and we managed to get ballot boxes from Kaikoura south by road to link up with one of our vans," Caley said.

"We then diverted the original flight to Christchurch and sent the van to Christchurch airport."

The pilot waited on the tarmac for the van to arrive, and then flew the ballot boxes up to Blenheim on Friday evening, Caley said.

"We finally got everything in by 9.30pm, in time for the count of advance votes on Saturday."

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The Electoral Commission had to do a lot of contingency planning to make sure people had access to voting services in Kaikōura and voting materials could be moved in and out, given the closure of State Highway 1, Caley said.

A commission spokeswoman said votes cast in Kaikōura on election day were counted that evening so they could be included in the preliminary totals.

Sounds Air finally made it into Kaikōura on Sunday morning to pick up the last of the ballot boxes, and flew them into Marlborough Airport so they could be officially counted in Blenheim.

Sounds Air went "above and beyond", helping to get the ballots through through on time, Caley said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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