By SLT John Hilario
Since its formation, the Operation NEPTUNE team has been working intensely to organise and coordinate the myriad events celebrating the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary this year. The team is enjoying the Operation NEPTUNE challenge, but from time to time a respite from the daily grind is welcome. That opportunity came in the form of a team-building activity in a place that is both picturesque and historically significant: Motuihe Island.
Joining forces with Department of Conservation rangers and volunteers from the Motuihe Island Restoration Trust, the Operation Neptune team (together with CDR David Turner, LT CDR Kerry Tutty, LT CDR (ret) Bill Morley, and CPOCDT Sophyia Hilario) sailed on a blustery July morning for Motuihe Island. Bill Morley, after whom the Seamanship Training Aid Facility is named (in recognition of his heroism during a man overboard incident in 1970 and for his personification of our core values), trained at Motuihe in the 1950s and his inclusion in the visit meant a great deal to the Neptune team. On arrival, they proceeded to a site near the old HMNZS TAMAKI training camp where they cleared vegetation, pulled weeds, and planted various tree saplings on what the team later learned was one of the most difficult and challenging spots of the island to work on! After a BBQ lunch at the island’s nursery (deliciously prepared by Operation Neptune’s resident chef, ACH Lissa Whittingham), the reinvigorated Navy team then stepped out for a scenic trek around the island before calling it a long but immensely satisfying and enjoyable day.
Before saying farewell, the park rangers and volunteers thanked the Navy team for all their help to make the island a greener, better place for future generations. It was a sincere tribute that inspired the team to ensure that this year’s 75th anniversary celebrations are memorable and meaningful for all.