29 Squadron Air Cadets grateful for Community Support

It may not look like anything out of the ordinary, but the shared space in the Unit Commanders’ officer needed storage for 29 Squadron, and a new filing cabinet is a lot of sausages to sell.

So we reached out to the community and asked if anyone would like to donate their filing cabinet, knowing it will support the Youth of Rotorua.

Our community angel came in the form of Fiona Leighton, who tells us that the cabinet was originally used by a not-for-profit organisation, and for it to continue its life at ours seemed right to her.

Fiona, thank you very much for your support.  It’s people like you that make our organisation succeed!

We can’t do it without community support

Aaron Coveney, Sales Consultant, Harcourts Rotorua

No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron Air Cadets has enjoyed the financial support of Real Estate expert Aaron Coveney for over two years. 

More importantly, his generous donations to 29 Squadron over the Covid lock downs when we were not permitted to raise funds allowed our Cadet Unit to continue to operate.

All in all, Aaron’s support is as critical as it is appreciated: unless the community gets behind  our unit, we will be very limited in being able to perform our duties. 

You may have heard Aaron on the radio lately as part of a Harcourts Rotorua promotion. He’s working hard with both buyers and sellers of homes in Rotorua and to get everyone to a point where they achieve their goals.

As part of his advertising he proudly shares his passion and support for 29 Squadron!

If you’d like to hear it too, click on the button to the right.

29 Squadron places Reputation and Trust high on our list, and as a result, the partnership we have with Aaron Coveney is directly supporting Rotorua youth in becoming more confident, capable, and successful young leaders.

Anyone looking to buy and sell homes will also benefit from working with someone who sticks by you even when things may get difficult. We support Aaron, we hope you will too.

Oh look, a brand new year!

PLTOFF Pete Belt, 29 Squadron ATC's new Commanding Officer sits down with Staff and NCOs to plan 2023
He who fails to plan is planning to fail
Winston Churchill

Location:  29 Squadron ATC Headquarters

2023: Term 1. Week 1. 

Present: Staff and NCOs. 

Their mission: To turn 2023 into an unforgettable year of achievements and fun.

Can we get through this year without Covid or other major interruptions getting in the way?  It seems an unattainable dream, yet the plan in front of these people assume they can squeeze the last drop from every opportunity.

On the plan?  Tramps, Camps, Target Shooting, Gliding, Flying, Ceremonial duties, Community Service, and most of all… fun with friends.  

At the same time, our young people will be trained in First Aid, emergency management, two-way radios, Leave-no-trace camps and tramps, bush craft, Firearms safety, Marksmanship, setting and achieving personal goals, Leadership, Cadet and Defence Force knowledge, and more…

…once out of Basic Training, cadets carry on to take week-long courses at Army Camps or Air/Naval bases to train them to first become, and then become even better Non-commissioned Officers.

Opportunities to take part in Cadet exchanges with other countries (Canada, UK, Singapore, etc) become available, as well as Air Navigation, Flying, Drone operating courses held at RNZAF bases.

Beyond that, Senior NCOs can train to become Shooting Coaches, or start their training towards becoming a Commissioned Officer in the New Zealand Cadet Forces by training as an Officer Cadet.  After having been a cadet for 4-6 years, This process takes another 1-2 years.

No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron ATC is now in its 82nd year of operation. We apply the trusted and proven systems used by our own New Zealand Defence Force and other Allies around the world.

But first, some people need to sit down, look at the empty year planner, and put it all together.

We have.  Now we wait for you to come join 29 Squadron as a Cadet Recruit.

Come visit us any Wednesday night before the school holidays, 6:30 pm, at 23 Geddes Road.  We are actively recruiting new cadets now.

Courses, promotions, successes

It’s time to catch up with some of the formal  successes Cadets and Staff have accumulated this year:


CDT Dhillon to LAC Dhillon

CDT Knight to LAC Knight

LAC Deibert to CPL Deibert

LAC Morley to CPL Morley

SGT Belt to F/S Belt

CDT van den Eng to LAC van den Eng



The following people have attended and passed their courses

Junior NCO – CPL Deibert

Junior NCO – CPL Morley

Senior NCO – F/S Belt

Shooting Coaches – FLTLT Joseph, PLTOFF Belt

Officer Field craft – PLTOFF Belt


Command Course – PLTOFF Belt

RCO Cource – PLTOFF Belt

Junior NCO – LAC van den Eng


Courses staffed:

Junior NCO – PLTOFF Belt

Junior NCO – FLTLT Knight

IT & TM – FLTLT Knight


No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron ATC congratulates all of these fine people for their commitment, courage, and comradeship.

Rotorua Cadet Units take to the water

Photo credit: FGOFF Whitcombe / 75 Squadron

An annual fixture on Rotorua’s three Cadet Units calendar is the “Swim Test”.

So cadets and Staff from 29 Squadron, 75 Squadron, and Rotorua District Cadet Unit meet at the thermally-heated pools at the Aquatic Centre, even though it’s the middle of winter!

Swimming 100m with additional clothing, is a timed test. That is then followed by a range of tests involving confidence and skills in and under the water, such as floating, treading water for a long period, swimming under water for a set distance, and retrieving items from the bottom of the pool.

Come fly with us

2022 has been a good year for 29 Squadron and powered flying as we have FLTLT Joseph on staff who is able to take the lead.

Cadets and staff have seen Rotorua from above as well as experienced airfield operations, listened in on Air Traffic Control, and experience take offs and landings in a small plane.

Almost everyone got to see their house from a whole new vantage point!

We’re looking forward to the next Operation Ruru:  Night flying!


Omicron Phase III and 29 Squadron ATC

Kia ora koutou 29 Whanau

The government announced that as of 23:59 hours tonight (24 Feb 2022), we are going to “Level 3” of the Omicron Response which means that **”only confirmed cases and anyone in their household are required to self-isolate”** — Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

29 Below remains postponed for now, but Parade Nights and activities will continue .

Simply put: if you are going to school or work, you can come to Cadets.

Clearly the next few weeks are going to be a challenge for us as individuals and our households.

Te waimarie pai, and reach out if you or your family need help. Kaha ake tahi (Stronger Together)

on behalf of all Staff at
No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron, ATC

To infuse with enthusiasm

Our Unit Commander, FLTLT Poihaere Knight, has been the subject of a Profile story: “Outlining the life and times of Rotorua people from the city’s diverse community”, using quality long-form journalism that showcases the Living Taonga that are part of and energise our Rotorua community.

As No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron, ATC, we are proud and honoured to have her as our leader.

Discover, learn, and enjoy about FLTLT Poihaere Knight as you read the article and watch the video (reproduced with permission)

Childhood, teenage years

Born a country girl, her growing up was done at Manutuke 13kms inland from Gisborne. Her dad managed the engineering side of a large sheep and cattle station and her mother picked fruit and vegies in local market gardens. That was until she became the first Maori woman to be ordained in the Anglican Church’s Waiapu diocese. That her daughter would follow her into the church was a long way into the future.

When she was seven, Poihaere took up tap dancing, meeting her husband-to-be, Kurei Knight, who was a year older. What the youngsters didn’t know was that in the customary way of the older generations of Ngati Porou they’d been promised to each other at Poihaere’s birth, but left to find their destiny as teenagers.

Inspired by her father who’d been a member of the post Second World War J Force, Poihaere wanted to study Japanese at Gisborne Girls’ High but it didn’t feature in the syllabus.

She enrolled at Waikato University where it did but had to scramble to catch up with classmates well ahead of her in the language both spoken and written [brushwork]. 

She coupled her Japanese study with te reo Maori which she already spoke fluently; however when her final marks were tallied Japanese headed off te reo.

Her university time included three months on an exchange programme in Japan’s Urawa city on an intense language programme.   

After university Poihaere wasn’t done with tertiary study. She remained at Waikato for an additional year to qualify as a secondary school teacher.

Her memories of living in the uni’s Bryant Hall of Residence are those of a typical  student.

“There were 147 steps from my room to the Hillcrest Tavern. We’d go there every night for an ale or two during the happy half hour before dinner.”

Poihaere had to cut back “a bit” on her socialising when she became a hall warden during her teacher training year.

 Becoming a warden was a precursor of things to come with the ATC.

 Out in the world  

Her first year as a qualified teacher was at Ngaruawahia High School working closely with the woman she calls “the lady”. That was Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

Ngaruawahia High had a thriving exchange programme with a school in Japan’s Tochigi city, 140kms north of Tokyo. Poihaere applied (in Japanese script of course) and was accepted, moving there in 1993.

Initially she had to leave Kurei behind. The couple had married immediately after her graduation; naturally her mother officiated.

Some months on, his job at the Hamilton court was put on hold so he could join her.

Officially Poihaere was employed to teach English. “But I managed to convince my board of education the students should learn a bit of Maori too. It was neat to walk in town and talk to the Japanese students in te reo. I mostly taught them their pepeha [introducing their geographical heritage].

In return Poihaere immersed herself in Japanese culture.

“I think I was one of the first foreigner teachers to do that.”

 It led to  learning the complexities of how to dress in a kimono and perform Japan’s complex tea ceremony. 

“It took three years for me to become a licensed tea maker. It’s a very methodical process involving exams.

“For me the hardest part was getting up gracefully after kneeling, my legs would go numb.”

Her kapa haka experience with the poi was an unscripted bonus. “Being able to whisk the tea so vigorously with a chashaku [handmade bamboo whisk] was distinctly to my advantage. The Japanese ladies were much more gentle.”

When she and Kurei returned to New Zealand it was to Rotorua to join his Te Arawa whanau. Poihaere relieved at local secondary schools before joining Western Heights High teaching Maori, Japanese, social studies “and a bit of art”. 

She was there six years before being shoulder tapped by Te Puia.

Unexpected Motherhood, cancer homes in 


The Knights bought a house and focused on their careers. “We were DINKS [Double Income No Kids], we’d been told we couldn’t have children  . . . I started to feel unwell. I toddled off to the doc. She got me to do a pregnancy test, I raced down to the courthouse [Kurei’s workplace] waving the stick with two lines on it yelling “I guess we’ve proved the doctors wrong.”

Son Morgan was born in 1998. He was four when cancer announced its presence. “Yeah, it was in ‘the girls’ [breasts] The first lump was in the left one. It was the size of my closed fist.

“We tried to keep things as normal as possible for our son, make it less traumatic for him so that he wouldn’t be scared when Mum lost her hair. The most challenging part of it was making sure he was comfortable.”

Every day for six weeks Poihaere drove herself to Waikato Hospital for radiotherapy. Chemo at Rotorua Hospital followed. Administered by slow release drugs, the normally stoic Poihaere acknowledges they knocked her around. 

“That was a journey and a half, it really wrecks your body.” 

By the time son BJ (Billy-Jean) was born in 2006 she’d been declared cancer free. It was not to be. Another lump appeared ten years after the first. It was in the right breast, smaller and removed with a hook wire.

Suddenly she was back fighting the foe she believed she’d conquered.  “Round two took a bit of a toll. That went on for two years.” 

In 2019 the battle resumed when a lump reappeared in her left breast. To counter it Poihaere had a full mastectomy. “We all agreed both girls needed to become part of a rose garden under a rose called Blackberry Nip which coincidentally was my Mum’s favourite tipple before she became a minister.” 

There is only one question that can be asked. How the devil did this person with so many commitments cope with cancer’s three-peat?

 “You just carry on. If your faith is strong, your support crew are stronger, you can meet any challenge.”

For round three she was given another slow release chemical that puts the stoppers on oestrogen production.

Messing with hormones is serious stuff. Surely there must have been side effects?

“Yeah, I did become grumpy and got really bad road rage. There was a lot of that.”

With the Knights now living in Onepu, Poihaere spends considerable time behind the steering wheel. 

“It wouldn’t have been nice to be in the car with me, you’d hear me yelling and screaming, using ‘other languages’. I made sure the windows were up.”

 She found a solution. 

“I went to the cancer retreat in Taupo. They taught me to breathe, to realise the cancer wasn’t introduced, it was there all along. If I was more accepting of the fact that sometimes a cell will go rogue it wouldn’t be such a blame game, to stop [asking]  that ‘why me?’ question. One in three Maori and Pacific Island women get diagnosed with cancer all the time so okay, ‘why not me?’”

Life goes on

With only scant time off,  Poihaere continued teaching, leading the air cadets and working in unison with vicar Tom Poata at St Faith’s in Ohinemutu, the church where she was ordained seven years earlier. She received her commission four weeks later.

“That was a busy year . . . I was very green heading for Ohakea.”  

It was her mother’s death a month after Poihaere arrived in Japan that turned her  towards the ministry.

“I was already a Christian. At Mum’s funeral a matekite (prophet) said ‘one of you is going to take her place’. We thought it was our oldest sister but in Rotorua I got this feeling it was something I had to do. I broached the subject with the [then] St Faith’s vicar Darren O’Callaghan. He took me on as a lay reader then I started training for the ministry.” She now holds a Bachelor of Theology.

Pohaere’s involvement with the ATC began when her elder son joined. Being supportive parents she and Kurei attended the next AGM. 

“For a laugh I nominated him [Kurei] as treasurer; he nominated me for fundraiser. I was working at Te Puia at the time so I had contacts that meant the cadets didn’t just have to rely on sausage sizzles at Bunnings for fundraising.”

From that time on, Poihaere and the 29 Squadron have become synonymous. She’s joined cadets working towards their wings. Gliders are her aircraft of choice.

“BJ has a natural flair for flying; I don’t. I’m really bad at looking left and right. It’s the opposite to a car. The instructors keep telling me off.”

At present her focus is on more grounded matters that are the hard graft of fundraising to have the asbestos-ridden cladding on the squadron’s crumbling Geddes Road hall replaced and the building upgraded “to last another 50 years.”

It anyone is the epitome of that old maxim “if you want something done ask a busy person” it’s Poihaere Knight.

To borrow her own words, she’s someone who thrives on challenge.

“Being involved in so much can be challenging, a bit of a balancing act when there are all these different worlds I walk in. I have had to be helped on my cancer journey so I am hopeful I am able to be of some help to others.”


Poihaere (Denise) Knight – the facts of her life



Gisborne, 1966



Family, people. “I’m a real people person”. Karaoke, “I love karaoke with a passion, singing, playing my guitar, zumba, painting, gardening, weaving, cooking “I’m learning to make my mother’s rewena bread. I love horses; if I had the opportunity to have one I would.”   


Manutuke Primary (intermediate years included), Gisborne Girls’ High, Waikato University and Teachers College, St John’s Theological College Auckland, Te Amorangi Anglican training centre, Hannahs Bay 


On the cadets

“Cadets is a really positive place to come, they are all genders, races, creeds. Most come shy, withdrawn. By the time they leave they can organise anything. It’s called leadership skills, being a good team player. The added bonus is learning to fly a plane. A lot can fly before they can drive.”


Husband Kurei Knight, sons Morgan 22 (recently moved to Canada) , BJ (Billy-Jean) 14


Personal philosophy

“Let go and let God.”


* Air Training Corp

Founded in 1941, Rotorua’s ATC was established to train World War Two fighter pilots on the airfield at what’s now Fenton Park. The hangar was the cadets’ first headquarters. The biggest events on their calendar are Anzac Day when they play a prominent role at the dawn and civic services and in the Battle of Britain memorial activities each September. They care for former servicemen and women’s graves and act as marshals at various community events including the marathon and Tough Guy and Girl Challenge. Most obtain their private pilot’s licence. 


Kia ora 29 Squadron whanau!

As per NZCF Covid-19 Bulletin 38 released on 08 Sep 21, and a meeting of Staff, our squadron is Parading at our ATC HQ at 23 Geddes Rd from 15 SEP 21.

If any Cadet or their whanau is not comfortable returning to Parading under Level 2, they do not have to.  Please fill in a Leave form though.

Anyone who has any kind of cold or flu symptoms, even though it may not be Covid-19, MUST NOT PARADE.  Please fill in a Leave form.

Parading at Level 2 does come with a number of conditions.

What 29 Squadron Staff will do:

  • Wear our mandatory masks (Mandatory for anyone 18+, including adult Cadets)
  • Use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving rooms; entering and leaving ATC HQ.
  • Do not crowd staff rooms
  • Clean and disinfect the toilets, wash basin, and the floor before Parade, in the middle of Parade, and at the end of Parade
  • Guide all Cadets to ensure maximum physical distancing – in excess of the minimums – where possible
  • Schedule lessons that make distancing practical
  • Wipe down surfaces touched during the lesson, and any common surfaces (door handles, light switches) before leaving the room.

What Cadets need to do:

  • Keep 2m from anyone else.
  • Entry to and exit from the building is through one door only (the main door)
  • Use the provided hand sanitiser by that door before touching anything else inside the building
  • All personnel need to scan the QR code on the door (available both sides).  If unable, fill in the paper register at the door
  • You will be directed to sit in a specific spot inside the hall, which will be 2m apart from others.
  • While moving through the building, try to keep 2m from everyone else.
  • In classrooms, take a seat and do not move that seat.  It is put there to keep the minimum distance.
  • If you are 17 or younger, the wearing of a face mask is not mandatory.  The NZCF strongly encourages everyone to wear a face mask.
  • You will stay in your assigned lecture room for the night.  Instructors will move between rooms instead.
  • Bring your own mug if you would like to have a drink during break time.  Take that mug back home with you at the end of the night.
  • With the provided wipes and cleaning supplies, clean and wipe down all surfaces you sat at and/or touched before leaving for the night

We have been through this before and we all appreciated that Parading at Level 2 is better than being in Lockdown.

The exciting news is that the NZCF is also allowing Activities to resume under Level 2.  These Activities do need to be (re)approved however.  29 SQN has requested an activity for 26 SEP 21 to be approved – more information will be available soon.

Thank you all for your cooperation.  We will be back at Level 1 before we know it.

Kia ora.

Online Parades back at 29 Squadron

Our first Online Parade night found almost everyone in good spirits.  It was good to see the resilience in our Cadets when faced with the highest level of restrictions on our daily lives.

Two Zoom sessions were held, one for Basic 1 and another for Basic 2 Cadets.  It went very well and Staff got together afterwards to commit to an even more immersive Online Parade night from next week onwards:  Three online lessons held at the same time.

Check  out the sorts of presentations that Cadets get to learn from and enjoy:

Our first Lockdown parade saw a good turnout with 18 Cadets plus Staff login in.

Not too long ago we spoke to our Cadets about the need for Flexibility and Resilience, and that was before the Lockdown happened.

We also tested our Cadets for comprehension after each lesson, and these were the top performers

29 Squadron thanks the parents and their Cadets for the support they are giving each other and our Squadron during this challenging time.