5 Oct 2011

US coastguard steps in to assist NZ relief mission to Tokelau

7:21 pm on 5 October 2011

The United States has offered the services of its Coastguard for a New Zealand relief mission to drought-stricken Tokelau.

Tokelau's facing a critical water shortage amid a drought also affecting nearby Tuvalu to which New Zealand flew aid earlier this week.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Wellington says New Zealand requested logistical assistance.

David Edgington says Tokelau lacks an airfield for an Air Force Hercules to land on, and New Zealand's navy is not within the proximity to ship supplies in quickly.

"As a fortunate coincidence, we had the US Coastguard cutter, the Walnut, in American Samoa and so my understanding is that the Royal New Zealand airforce is going to be flying those supplies up to American Samoa this evening at which point we'll transfer them to the Walnut and then we'll move them up to Tokelau."

The Hercules will deliver 12 large water storage containers to the Walnut which has onboard a desalination plant able to fill the tanks with up to 130,000 litres of water.