Sophie McHardy and Richard Paul didn’t hesitate in finding ways that they and the company they work for, Mediaworks, could pitch in and help.
Richard, now based at the Mediaworks Auckland office, as their head of property, loaded up a ute of supplies and headed south to his beloved region as soon as he could, while locally Sophie and the team looked at ways that they could get involved.
”With power out and communications down we had to rely on getting updates on what was happening via local radio stations,” says Sophie. Sophie says Mediaworks responded immediately, powering up their generator to get back on the airwaves.
“Powered by our old faithful generator, our local Breeze station broadcast live from 6am to 7pm every day in the two weeks following the cyclone, offering up-to-date information to our listeners.
“For a while radio was the only connection with the outside world and our local announcers did a superb job at keeping the public informed.” At the same time Richard was working with Mark Little, CEO of courier company, Aramex, in Auckland to send work supplies of generators, spades and boots to Hawke’s Bay.
“Mark and the Aramex team also rose to the occasion and provided full logistics, delivering pallets of equipment throughout the region and then we were out on the ground with Richard dropping off equipment and assisting the community in organising various logistics.”
After the early response, Sophie started hearing stories from her Ag-Pilot husband Alex McHardy about the impact on the rural communities cut off from town due to bridge damage. One simple life pleasure in normal times for farmers is a cold beer at the end of a hard day on the farm.
“The farmers were working long hours under trying conditions to ensure the wellbeing of their stock, a few mentioned to Alex that they would love a beer at the end of the day. “So, from this we set up a Facebook Page among friends called ‘Beers for the Boys’ – I did a shout out to friends to donate beer for the farmers that we could add to the flights when there was room in the planes.
“Obviously beer is not classed as an ‘essential’ supply but it offered the farmers a little normality after a hard day on their cyclone ravaged properties and a chance to check in with their neighbours and enjoy a cold one.”
Next on the agenda was the idea of uniting and lifting the spirits of the entire region and along with Hastings District Council, Sophie and the Mediaworks team worked on a campaign called
‘Hawke’s Bay Together in Black & White’.
“They all got on board and we set the wheels in motion to go live with a special community day on Thursday April 6. What was a small idea grew into something pretty big with the amazing support of the councils we launched a simple campaign to wear your heart on your sleeve by wearing our region’s colours of black and white as a show of togetherness.”
As well as wearing black ‘n white, a simple donation platform was set up with a text-to-give number for instant $3 donations to the Hawke’s Bay Mayoral Disaster Relief Fund. From a feeling of hopelessness of not being badly affected by the Cyclone, Sophie, Richard and their team can be proud of all they have achieved.
“I think the biggest impact on me personally was an overwhelming feeling of guilt and hopelessness that I had not been directly impacted by the cyclone when so many had lost everything, but I guess the cyclone has also given us another chance to start over, do things a little differently and rebuild our beautiful region and nurture and care for its people.”
“The support the ‘Hawke’s Bay Together in Black & White’ initiative showed the togetherness of the people of Hawke’s Bay and was also proof of just how proud we all are of our region, our special part of Aotearoa.” Richard says the experience of being back home will last a lifetime. “Having driven through the night to get home and relieve my amazing wife from the tyranny of our three kids, I was shattered but equally invigorated.
“We managed to decanter and deliver 20 or so pallets directly into the hands of those on the front line over the period of 3 days, arranged tens of thousands of dollars of diesel to be delivered into cut off farms, arranged countless specific requests for specialist people and heavy equipment and sourced equipment and labour for the removal of window-height silt from two recoverable houses.
“Most of this was achieved primarily through the gifting and contacts of the Auckland community.”