Rangitīkei District Council staff got a big boost to their Matariki Tu Rākau planting project through the help of about 25 United States Navy personnel on August 18.

The helpers were among 31 "Mad Foxes", members of the US Navy's Patrol Squadron (VP) 5, who brought a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to New Zealand's Ōhakea Air Force Base so that New Zealand personnel can get familiar with it.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force will have four of the aircraft from early 2023, at a cost of $2.3 billion, to replace its fleet of six ageing Orions.

When US personnel are stationed overseas they generally do some form of community outreach. That was offered by the United States Embassy in July, Rangitīkei District Council customer services and communications team leader Carol Gordon said.


The navy staff were here at the right time to help with the massive Matariki Tu Rākau project - planting 12,000 trees around Marton's two reservoir dams to honour past and present members of the New Zealand Defence Force.

All the plants, funded by Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand), have to be in the ground by the end of the month.

About 25 US Navy personnel were at the site for three hours on Sunday.

"In that time they planted around 1000 plants, which was a fantastic effort," Gordon said.