Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says she is grateful to the Defence Force for helping retrieve conservation, MetService and GNS staff trapped on a remote island 1000km north of Auckland.
Sage said the workers had been on the island for the past 12 months, but when the lockdown was announced, the HMNZS Canterbury dashed north from the sub-Antarctic Campbell and Auckland islands to pick them up from Rangitāhua / Raoul Island.
"The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) provides invaluable support for the Department of Conservation's work in remote and difficult to access places, especially remote offshore islands," Sage said in a statement.
"The swift manoeuvres of the HMNZS Canterbury are very much appreciated."
The six conservation staff were carrying out pest control, biodiversity and maintenance work on the island, which was now closed, she said.
"To be able to help our colleagues get back to their families in these uncertain times was particularly important to me and my Ship's Company," Commanding Officer Martin Walker said.
The minister said the DOC workers were in good spirits after their journey home, returning to Auckland's Devonport Naval Base.
The crew of HMNZS Canterbury were not allowed to depart the ship in Auckland due to the risk of contracting Covid-19.
All DOC tracks, huts, campgrounds and other facilities are closed under the alert level 4 lockdown.
On Rakiura/Stewart Island, DOC staff helped 90 hunters, trampers and other visitors on the island to leave via helicopter, fixed wing planes and boats.
In Kahurangi National Park, 12 trampers and a hut warden were taken via helicopter to the end of the Heaphy Track. They were assisted by local providers to either find a place to stay, or to get to where they would stay for the lockdown.
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