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US navy happy to help Kaikoura

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/11/2016

The US navy says it is delighted to assist Kaikoura residents in their time of need during what was an American warship's first visit to local waters in more than 30 years.

Originally scheduled to join the New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary celebrations, the USS Sampson instead diverted alongside a flotilla of foreign and Kiwi vessels to deliver aid to Kaikoura residents isolated by last week's earthquakes.

The ships used helicopters and small craft to bring food, care packages and chemical toilets into Kaikoura with US sailors also going door-to-door to check on residents.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday as the USS Sampson berthed in Wellington after finishing its relief efforts, US Ambassador Mark Gilbert, said he thought Kiwis were pleased by the American visit.

"There was a poll that more than 80 per cent of Kiwis were in favour of the visit. I think after the visit that number is going to go higher," he said.

"I've seen our sailors and navies work together really, really well and I only see it getting better in the future."

Despite the more than 30 years of frosty military relations, USS Sampson Commanding Officer Tim Labenz said the New Zealand navy had "fantastically" commanded the task group that also included Australia's HMAS Darwin and Canada's HMCS Vancouver.

"We have a history of operating with our allies and it includes ... Pacific partnership exercises," he said.

"(These are) really focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief so this is just another extension of that."

HMNZS Te Kaha Commander Steve Lenik described the four nations coming together during the relief operation as a "force for good".

He said the USS Sampson, HMAS Darwin, HMCS Vancouver and New Zealand frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and tanker HMNZS Endeavour's Wellington visit had been arranged to acknowledge their efforts.

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