Zane Smith (Ngāti Mamoe, Waitaha, Ngāi Tahu) of Rakiura (Stewart Island) in New Zealand’s deep south is passionate about two things – helicopters and the island he has always called home. He’s a sixth generation Stewart Islander and now, thanks to his hard work and dedication, he brings the two together in his new company, Rakiura Helicopters Ltd, which boasts the only helicopter – a shiny blue Hughes 500E – actually based on the island.
Zane, 37, spent twelve years working as a crayfisherman and paua diver around Stewart Island and Fiordland before selling his boat to follow his dream. After gaining his private and commercial helicopter licences – training under world renowned helicopter instructor, Simon Spencer-Bower in Wanaka – he spent two years working as a heli-musterer in Australia’s Northern Territories.
Now back on Stewart Island and based in his brand new hangar in Fern Gully, Zane is planning to operate a safe helicopter service for tourist, hunters, fishermen, trampers, photographers and muttonbirders. He can get to anywhere on the island in twenty-five minutes or less; and there isn’t an inch of Rakiura that he doesn’t know.
“I’ve dived in every bay and there isn’t a piece of coastline or beach that I haven’t swum around,” he says. “That was just part of growing up here.” And when it comes to muttonbirding on the southern Titi Islands off the coast of Stewart Island, he’s never missed a season in all his 37 years and he’s looking forward to flying other Rakiura Maori – the kaitiaki (guardians) of the Titi Island muttonbirds – to the islands for their annual hunt. www.stewartisland.co.nz – Nā Adrienne Rewi