Becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Operator, thanks to a free course at EIT | Te Pūkenga Tairāwhiti, helped Aleria Fraser and her family keep in contact during Cyclone Gabrielle.
The Bachelor of Computing Systems student completed the course late last year, closely followed by her father Gawain Fraser.
The pair each received a brand new radio on completion of the Ham Cram (condensed amateur radio) course, donated by local business Evolution Wireless, and were able to make use of them for well-being checks throughout the communication blackout.
Aleria says she was very thankful to not only have a radio but know how to use it.
“I just wanted to know that my parents were safe when they left for work. There was no cell signal and no power or anything, so it was really nice to just know that they were okay during the day when they were gone.”
The 20-year-old had originally planned on taking a gap year, but after seeing an ad about the Bachelor of Computing Systems, decided to enrol.
“It hadn’t been anything that I was planning to do. But it looked very interesting, and I wanted to stay in Gisborne and be with my family and friends.”
Aleria is now in her third year.
“My lecturers and tutors are amazing, and they have been so helpful.”
Computing Lecturer and Ham Cram enthusiast Steve Main says the course continues to grow in popularity following each disaster and subsequent communications blackout in Tairāwhiti.
“The first one that Warren Harris ran in November was well-subscribed with about 20 students. Then after this latest Cyclone, we had an overwhelming response for the second one and are now looking at the possibility of running a third for Gisborne. We have organised Warren to run one in Hawke’s Bay too.”
“I think people have seen the value of communication and having a form of communication that’s not reliant on commercial infrastructure.”
They are also looking at offering the course in Ruatoria later this year
During the communications blackout, Steve says they were able to make use of an amateur radio station newly set up by Evolution Wireless in one of the EIT | Te Pūkenga technology classrooms in Tairāwhiti. The studio has its own call sign ZL2ETC, along with the Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale ZL2EHB.
“The technology room and radio equipment were heavily utilised to communicate outside of Gisborne when we had the communications blackout. We had people all over New Zealand relaying key messages, and using radio-to-phone so loved ones could actually talk to each other. We also had members providing well-being checks too.”