When the 7.1-magnitude earthquake ripped through Canterbury on 4 September, 2010 and again, on 22 February 2011, the ripples were felt all the way to Australia. In a tiny New South Wales settlement of Greenwich Park (pop.50), near Goulburn between Canberra and Sydney, Peter Dinsdale (Ngāi Tahu) and his partner, Rachel Oates-King, were devastated to hear of deaths, chaos and widespread damage.

“I may have lived in Australia for 44 years but I’m still a Kiwi and this was my country, my people, who were suffering,” says Peter.

Every year, he and Rachel attempt at least one fundraising project, so when they heard about the plight of Cantabrians, they staged a hāngi in their shearing shed and invited close to 200 people. That was two years ago and they would have flown to Christchurch sooner to gift the money they raised but Peter was ill with prostate cancer and then Peter’s son decided to get married.

But they finally arrived in Christchurch where they visited Positive Directions Trust – He Tohutohu Pai ki Waitaha in New Brighton to present $3,000 worth of gift vouchers for food, clothing and petrol. Their contribution also included a cash donation for one worthy Māori student at Papanui High School, who has been struggling since the earthquakes; and a donation of vouchers to Sharon Humphries of Aranui, who is raising her grandchildren in an earthquake-damaged home.

Peter and Rachel also presented vouchers to Sharon Hillier (Ngāi Tahu), a project leader at Te Awheawhe Rū Whenua (the Ngāi Tahu Earthquake Recovery Working Group), one of a team of hardworking Kaitoko Whānau at He Oranga Pounamu, who have been supporting whānau through the earthquakes. She will distribute them to whānau in need.

“For me, donations like this lift the spirits of whānau. They appreciate any koha and this is a way for them to enjoy their life a little better during tough times. It reminds them that there are people who care. It’s a good example of manaakitanga,” she says.

For recipient, Sharon Humphries, the handful of vouchers presented to her by Peter and Rachel “would certainly make life a lot easier.” “I’m overwhelmed,” she said.

Peter, who was born in Rotorua and left New Zealand with his whānau when he was 13, says he and Rachel felt they “couldn’t just sit around and do nothing,” when they heard about the earthquakes.

“It hit us hard and we wanted to do something to help people in Christchurch. And we’ve very much appreciated the help we’ve had from HOP and Positive Directions Trust in getting the donation out to people who need it. They’ve been brilliant. It’s been a wonderful experience.

“We’re not handing over a lot but we’re pleased to be able to make even a little difference to someone. And this won’t be the end for us. We’ll have an even bigger hāngi next time. There’s lots of interest back home in Australia, in helping Christchurch families whose lives have been hit by the earthquakes.”

Peter Dinsdale and Rachel Oates-King.

Peter donates vouchers to Aranui’s Sharon Humphries.

Peter doing the haka at his Australian fundraiser.

Rachel, Peter and Sharon at Sharon’s earthquake-damaged Aranui home.