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29 Nov 2017

There was no snow, no elves nor Santa. But an empty hall across from Trentham Military Camp may well have been Santa’s workshop as about 40 volunteers, including schoolchildren, packed hundreds of Christmas treats on the 29th of August, for NZDF members serving overseas.

The Christmas packages include Kiwi treats such as Pams Reduced Cream with Onion Soup, Pams Caramel Coffee sticks, Pams Natural Licorice and ANZAC biscuits which NZDF personnel stationed overseas cannot easily buy. Each parcel also includes a Christmas card written by a Wellington primary school student.

The yearly initiative, organised by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA), saw students from Mount Cook School, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and Defence Force personnel pitching in to pack the Christmas treats.

The NZDF will have these packages sent to its 13 missions overseas starting next week to ensure they get there on time.

RSA National President BJ Clark said the RSA was pleased to continue the long-running tradition.

“We hope this brings them comfort when since they’re away from their loved ones over Christmas. The least we can do is send a bit of New Zealand to our men and women serving overseas – something to remind them of great Kiwi times with family and friends.”

“The RSA is really appreciative of the generous help from our sponsors. We’re thankful two New Zealand-owned, family-oriented companies – Pams and Z Energy – have come on board to support this.”

Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the Christmas packages were a tribute to the NZDF’s servicemen and women stationed overseas. 

“We have personnel in six of the seven continents and their contribution makes our country proud both at home and abroad.”

“They are making a personal sacrifice by serving overseas over the festive period. It is our way of saying ‘you are in our thoughts this Christmas and we value the work that you do on behalf of New Zealand’,” Major General Gall said.

About 300 Defence Force personnel are currently serving overseas. About 230, or 86 per cent, are based in the Middle East and 28 are conducting fisheries patrols in the South Pacific.

Five are working for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission Secretariat in South Korea, including two who serve as monitors along the Demilitarised Zone with North Korea. Four are supporting the UN mission in war-torn South Sudan, while seven are working as UN observers in Israel and Lebanon.

The RSA has sent Christmas care packages to deployed military personnel for more than 76 years. Foodstuffs and Z Energy provided over $10,000 worth of goods for this year’s Christmas packages.