29 May 2023

KickStart Breakfast - Cyclone Gabrielle Response


Schools are part of the life-blood of every community in which they exist, no matter how large or small that community is, or where it’s located.

In the aftermath of cyclone Gabrielle that brought flooding and devastation to the Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay regions, schools were closed, some were isolated by road closure, damaged, and some became the headquarters for disaster response teams and a place for the community to gather and support one another. No matter how events played out, everyone was affected in some way by what happened to their local school.

For our team at KickStart Breakfast, this created new challenges and new opportunities to serve our communities.

For KickStart Breakfast Relationship Manager Ross Hamilton, it was a no-brainer to travel up to the Napier–Hastings region to lend some practical assistance, and work alongside Vaughn and Dave and the team at Anchor Milk Hawke’s Bay to deliver KickStart Breakfast milk to schools as they reopened. As a former milk tanker operator, it will come as no surprise that Ross felt like the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a truck (albeit a much smaller Anchor milk truck) was a great fit.

Keep reading for Ross’s first-hand account of the days he spent in the Hawke’s Bay, working with our KickStart Breakfast partners to support the community amid widespread devastation.


Even though I wasn’t due to start deliveries until Monday, I had to fly in on Saturday because of heavy flight bookings. It was hard to reconcile the views I had from the aircraft of the affected areas with the huge amount of ‘normal’ activity at the airport and its environs. The drive from Napier to Hastings revealed more of the reality of the situation.


I met with Vaughn (owner) and Dave (ops manager) from Anchor Milk Hawke’s Bay. It was good to understand their big picture, be sure of their depot location, get the code for the security gate, and take care of a local delivery for them. Hawke’s Bay is an area I have only ever visited once before, so anything to help get some familiarity was appreciated.


Their friendly ops manager Dave had everything sorted and ready to roll. The truck is loaded for me and I have a sequential list of the schools I’m delivering to in Napier. Fellow Relationship Manager Rosy had spent hours bringing together each school’s order, and Dave had set it out for me brilliantly. Armed with my tanker hi-vis gear, my no-fail pen and paper list (delightfully old-school, a bit like me!), Google Maps and the Anchor team’s best wishes, away I went. To be honest, I wasn’t worried about finding schools in a strange city as much as I was worried about how much of a physical wreck I’d be at the end of the day – I’d basically been sitting at a desk for a year before this.

This was a full-on day, and throughout it I met incredible people who were doing everything within their power to make a day at school as normal as ever for their students. A number of people I spoke with had lost everything they called ‘home’ in the disaster, yet they had it within themselves to be at work and provide a positive environment for their colleagues and pupils. Some schools pitched in and staff or pupils lent a hand to help me get on my way sooner, with Porritt Primary School being very creative and rolling out a couple of trolleys to aid the cause.

My delivery route took me all over the city, but the last part of the day had deliveries into areas of devastation and was quite challenging. The sights and smells were confronting, and school staff were exhausted. My heart went out to them.

The Napier run had used up the entire supply of milk that had come through but we were expecting another delivery on Tuesday morning to allow me to do schools in and around Hastings – so far, so good.


My waking thought was ‘amazing, not everything hurts, and I can move my legs!’. That certainly was a blessing. My first stop was to load up with Weet-Bix, anticipating that there would be a way to get some product out to isolated school communities via Civil Defence. When I arrived at the Anchor depot, a pallet of Stage 3 Anmum Infant Formula had arrived from Fonterra, so my first task was to deliver this to Civil Defence and have them distribute the product to families in cut off communities.

Wanting to make the most of my time, I drove out to one of the Civil Defence hubs to see what locations they were flying supplies into and to ask if there was capacity for KickStart Breakfast products to be added to trips to reach school communities cut off from road access. My request was officially entered into the system, and in less than an hour it was confirmed that it was possible.

My next stop was the Hastings Show Grounds, the logistical staging point for helicopter deliveries. The staff there were great, and although very tired, dealt with every request as though they were fresh on the job. It turned out there were 2 remote schools that could be serviced from this location, which was great news!

When the bulk order of milk did arrive, it was too late in the day to start deliveries for schools, but there was time to get the milk and Weet-Bix to Civil Defence for the 2 school communities without road access, and to have the truck ready for tomorrow morning.


I was feeling the pressure early on. I had to fly home to South Otago later in the day and we really wanted to make sure we could service as many schools as possible. This day simply had to run like clockwork. There were fewer schools, less milk, and everything was quite ‘local’ compared to the Napier run. Again, the staff I met at every stop were amazing – helpful, grateful, and happy to accommodate me rushing around. Everything ran smoothly and I was able to relax into the job as the day progressed. Dave had everything set up brilliantly as before, and the travel from school to school was very efficient.

With the last school done and the truck refueled, I parked up and handed over the keys. It turned out I had time to spare to catch my flight, so there was a chance to catch up with the team at Anchor Milk Hawke’s Bay before being on my way.

I wish to thank them for my warm welcome and acknowledge the work they are doing to provide support into their region. This was an extraordinary opportunity, one that took our whole team to make happen, for which I am very grateful. While there is a long recovery period to come, I applaud the resilience and care shown inside communities in those early days. Strength to you all on the continuing journey.

Any time you see a member of the Anchor team coming into your school, please take the time to give them a wave or say hi if you can – it will make their day!