A shipping container has been airlifted to White Island to provide visitors an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.

The New Zealand Defence Force airlifted the 2.4 tonne shipping container to the island from Whakatane Airport, a 50km trip.

The container was placed on an old mining site to provide a natural protective barrier in case of a volcanic eruption.

Commodore Darryn Webb said a NH90 helicopter from the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Ohakea-based 3 squadron moved the 6m container.

Advertisement
On route - A RNZAF NH90 moves a shipping container to White Island. Photo/supplied
On route - A RNZAF NH90 moves a shipping container to White Island. Photo/supplied

Webb said it had been a long-standing concern of communities as well as police and emergency management authorities.

More than 10,000 tourists visited White Island, an active volcano, every year.

It last erupted on April 27, late at night and sent a surge of ash across the crater floor.

Scientists later said the eruption would likely have killed anyone close to the floor.

NH90 captain Flight Lieutenant James MacKenzie said the task was also used as a training session.

Helicopter Loadmaster SGT Sam Riordan surveys White Island from the NH90 during a reconnaissance flight to the island. Photo/supplied
Helicopter Loadmaster SGT Sam Riordan surveys White Island from the NH90 during a reconnaissance flight to the island. Photo/supplied

"It is important to our training that we get to lift large and heavy loads that challenge the range and lift capacity of the NH90.

"A task like this prepares us to conduct more complex tasks when we go on operations, whether it is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or stability and support operations," MacKenzie said.

An NH90 helicopter from the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 3 Squadron yesterday lifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container to volcanic White Island near Whakatane
An NH90 helicopter from the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 3 Squadron yesterday lifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container to volcanic White Island near Whakatane

Bay of Plenty director of emergency management Clinton Naude said the shipping container would help ensure people had a safe place to go to if there was a volcanic eruption.

"The container will also be used to store safety gear, spare clothing, food supplies and emergency and rescue items."

He said the organisation had been working with GNS Science, New Zealand Police, other agencies and tour operators to improve the safety of visitors to White Island.

NH90

• RNZAF introduced the NH90s in 2013 to perform a wide range of roles in New Zealand and overseas. With sophisticated systems and greater capacity, the NH90 can carry up to 19 passengers or under sling artillery in support of combat operations.

• The RNZAF has used the NH90 helicopters for search and rescue missions, transport for military and government personnel, and lifting of equipment while also maintaining a counter-terrorism response. In June, it shifted a 1.7-tonne Department of Conservation hut sitting on an active slip in Marlborough to safer ground.

• The helicopters confirmed their ability to support a humanitarian aid operation on their first overseas mission in Fiji this year, when they provided a critical link between the main population centres and outlying islands devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston. Almost 160 hours of relief missions were flown by the NH90s during the seven-week operation.