08 July 2011

The Rodney Aero Club - Flying to Motu Kaikoura

POST UPDATED January 2021

The Rodney Aero Club was formed in 1953. At the time of the Club's 50th anniversary long-term instructor Rod Miller reflected on the history of the Club in the local community newspaper, Mahurangi Matters... 

Wellsford resident Eycke Zimmerman was the first to come up with the idea of forming a local club. He called a meeting and asked for £3 from each of the 30 people present. A steering committee was formed and several sites inspected. Mr Miller was dating his future wife Rosalie at the time. “I used to work In Auckland and come home for the weekends and sit there and wait for Rod,” Mrs Miller, 72, says. "Several hours later I'd see him coming up Hill St. He said: 'We've been looking for an airfield.'” Eventually a property owned by the Mclrvine family was chosen on Kaipara Flats Rd at Warkworth. It was the only suitable site in the district. An agreement was reached whereby the club would pay rates in return for a peppercorn rental. The swamp-covered land had to be drained and trees had to be blasted out. 

The Georgetti family, who owned Tawharanui at the time, donated metal for a hardstand area. It was barged up the Mahurangi River and local carriers distributed it at night. The 716m grass runway was formed in August 1964 and Rodney Aero Club opened in November that year. The clubhouse, hangars and flight office cost £3,500 and was paid for by members in £25 debentures. We did it all on the cheap through volunteer work and community spirit! Mr Miller says. "People had more time and didn't work on a Saturday." 

He recalls that when the club first opened, club member Alph Rattner bought a Piper Cub. "We used it for a year then we bought a Cherokee 140. It cost $9338 then. They're worth $400,000 now." Mr Miller flew the Rothmans-sponsored Cherokee over East Coast beaches doing shark patrols for Radio Hauraki before the club traded it in for a Cessna 172 in 1977. The Cessna is still used today. The runway was extended by 100m in 1993 and now accommodates most common light aircraft. 

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and Auckland Parachute Club used the site until 1999 when local residents started complaining about noise. Topdressing has been discontinued, with trucks now used instead. Mr Miller is currently teaching his 14-year-old granddaughter, Rochelle, to fly. 

The Martin's Bay resident has run scenic and charter flights and carried out conservation missions such as searching for Maui dolphins on the West Coast and storm petrel and kakapo in the Hauraki Gulf. He has just made his 280th flight to Motu Kaikoura Conservation Island beside Great Barrier. Mr Miller is a trustee of the island, which is in the process of having pests removed, and having a track built around its perimeter. 

Motu Kaikoura (Kaikoura Island or Selwyn Island) is the seventh largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. 90kms north east of Auckland it is located on the western coast of Great Barrier Island where it forms the natural harbours of Port FitzRoy and Port Abercrombie. 

The island is protected as a Crown-owned reserve and managed by a Trust. It is home to the endangered brown teal and the north island kaka as well as many native trees and shrubs. At its nearest point Motu Kaikoura is as close as 80m to Great Barrier Island, across the 'Man-of-War Passage', and a similar distance from Nelson Island to the west.

Motu Kaikoura airstrip, September 2010. Photo : Jean210

There are no scheduled ferry or flight services to Motu Kaikoura. There is an airstrip is which is served on an on-demand charter basis by the Rodney Aero Club from Kaipara Flats with Cessna 172N ZK-EJR. Jean210 has sent me these photos of the 172 on Motu Kaikoura.

Rodney Aero Club's Cessna 172 ZK-EJR on Motu Kaikoura airstrip, September 2010. Photos : Jean210

No comments:

Post a Comment