E hara taku toa i te toa takitahi, he toa takitini
My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective
Today, we join the country in commemorating the second anniversary of the Whakaari/White Island tragedy.
In doing so we not only remember those who died as a result of the eruption, but those who survived and continue to receive treatment.
We also honour the health professionals who went above and beyond in exceptional circumstances.
To put the scale of this into context, the National Burn Service, which includes the National Burn Centre hosted at Middlemore Hospital, had a year’s worth of work referred in one day.
In the first full day after the eruption, the team did a weeks’ worth of operating and in the first week, a month’s worth of operating.
They continued at this rate throughout the first month - through the Christmas and New Year period - ultimately undertaking close to half a year’s work in a quarter of a year.
While this tragedy had a significant impact on everyone, I want to especially acknowledge our Burn Service staff and those in regional burns units in Waikato, Upper Hutt and Christchurch – your dedication will not soon be forgotten.
We also give thanks to the rescuers involved in the initial response, the Whakataane community, our partners at St John, our DHB and agency colleagues including MFAT and MoH, health professionals who came from overseas to assist, and our community for their outpouring of support.
This tragedy is one that will live long in our collective memory and as I look back on our response I am immensely proud of what was achieved because - as the whakatauki at the beginning of this acknowledgement alludes to - it is how we all pull together as a community and as human beings to help people in their time of need that truly defines us.
You can read more about our team’s amazing work in the face of this tragedy here.