Pupils at little Kokopu School, west of Whangarei, were agape yesterday when a $40 million Australian military helicopter landed in a paddock next to the school.

It wasn't an emergency, just a friendly visit from the helicopter pilot to his two nieces Keisha and Holly Gutterson who go to the school.

The girls and their uncle Scott Gutterson organised the surprise visit from the four-crew Sea Hawk, a secret kept from most of the school's pupils until they heard the big helicopter coming in close over the school and landing in the paddock.

Mr Gutterson and the helicopter crew have been stationed on board the HMAS Darwin, one of the international ships in New Zealand to celebrate the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary.

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The Darwin and the chopper were used in the relief effort in the Marlborough district after the recent earthquakes.

Mr Gutterson was granted top brass Australian naval approval to swing over to Kokopu as the Darwin passed Northland's east coast on manoeuvres yesterday.

During the once in a lifetime opportunity, the school children got to spend an hour talking to the crew, asking questions and looking over the high tech equipment.