On November 28th 1979, an Air New Zealand DC10 carrying 257 passengers and crew on a sightseeing trip to Antarctica were killed instantly when the aircraft collided with Mt Erebus. It was unknown to the crew that Flight TE 901 had been loaded with an incorrect flight path. In the whiteout conditions that prevailed at the time, the result was inevitable.
On board that flight was one of our community’s own, Kay Dean, the daughter and only child of Reporoa farmers, Peter and Joan Dean. She was accompanied on the flight by her Swiss boyfriend Jurg Meir. At the time of her death, Kay was 22 years of age, had just finished her law degree and was involved in the NZ Territorials. She was also well through her training to gain a commercial pilot license. There is some speculation that the Erebus Flight may have been the occasion for Jurg to propose to Kay. The Swiss embassy confirmed a ring was found in Jurg’s clothing when his body was recovered. Today, you can find Jurg and Kay at rest together under a Copper Beech tree in the grounds of Reporoa College.
Back in the mid-1950s, Peter and Joan Dean drew a civilian ballot dairy farm in the Broadlands region of south Reporoa. Joan was a trained secondary school teacher and took employment as a Science and Math teacher when the Reporoa District High School started in 1956. Subsequently the District High School became Reporoa College in 1966. The Dean’s continued farming their original Broadlands property until Peter died in 2012 and the farm was sold. Joan continued to live in their original farm house until she died in December of 2017. For Peter and Joan the impact of losing their only child and daughter was horrific. They were, of course, well supported by the Reporoa community and in time made a life mission of helping and supporting other people and in particular the youth of the Reporoa Valley.
As a consequence of the tragedy and to honour Kay, Peter and Joan established a trust, ‘The Reporoa College Educational Trust’, sometimes also known as ‘The Kay Dean Trust.’ Prior to her death Kay had encouraged her parents to make an investment into forestry, so in to honour Kay, they did just that by purchasing a 108 ha block on the Napier/Taupo highway. The block was fondly named Kay’s Forest and still retains that name today. More than 50 ha was planted in plantation Radiata Pine with the balance remaining in native bush. In 2011, having taken a harvest from the block, it was replanted and then gifted to the Educational Trust. The next harvest is likely to be about 2030. Following the sale of the family farm, a legacy from Peter and Joan’s estate was received in 2020.
Today, the Trust is known as the Peter, Joan and Kay Dean Reporoa Educational Trust Fund, and is proudly managed by the Geyser Community Foundation. The interest from the Fund will benefit the Reporoa community year on year, forever.