Yesterday was Wahine Day, and 50 years since the Wahine foundered on Barrett's Reef during one of the worst storms to ever hit the Wellington region. it was a day of sadness and remembrance, but also a day to put a spotlight on how our emergency response and preparedness has improved in the aftermath.
Dame Patsy officially opened a display by 20 emergency responder organisations in Shed 6 on the Wellington waterfront, where she was able to learn more from the experts about their work and the emergency response initiatives put in place in the aftermath of the Wahine's sinking, including civil defence plans, maritime safety systems, and the Life Flight helicopter service, which was established by plumber Peter Button. Mr Button realised a helicopter could have rescued people from the sea, and learned to fly so that he could establish the rescue helicopter service.
Dame Patsy was privileged to meet some of the people engaged in rescue efforts 50 years ago, and hear their accounts of the challenges they faced and the impact that the experience has had on their lives.
Dame Patsy then spoke at a commemorative ceremony: New Zealand remembers, along with the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, and the Mayor of Wellington, His Worship Justin Lester. The ceremony concluded with an Orpheus Choir performance of a medley of popular songs sung by survivors on Wahine's lifeboats 50 years ago.