Kiwi-led initiative to distribute enough masks to Niue and Tokelau for every adult, teenager and child - free of charge

An Auckland PhD student, his mates in South Korea, and a public health expert have managed to pull off a special PPE delivery for two of our closest Pacific neighbours.

The initiative will see every adult, teenager and child in Niue and Tokelau supplied with reusable face masks - free of charge.

At a transport yard in Auckland's Swanson, around 13,000 face masks are ready to be shipped out.

For Regan Duff it's been a lesson in perseverance and networking, but he says it's paid off.

"As part of my PhD, which is in community resilience, I felt like I wanted to do something during the lockdown and I had some contacts in South Korea from having lived there before," the Auckland University student tells Newshub.

"This was our project - to basically mask-up a nation, mask-up two nations."

South Korean volunteers from the International Cultural Youth Exchange sourced the masks from four different suppliers.

It's been made easier by another team of volunteers, led by Take My Hands managing trustee Jenette Searle.

"We are an organisation that sends medical equipment up to the Pacific and we had containers that were heading up at the right time," she says.

The hospital beds, trolleys and masks are considered critical for poorly-resourced Pacific health teams.

"I think it's about building resilience but I also think it's about a basic level of care that we would expect to have here in New Zealand, and why shouldn't we do that or expect that for our neighbours in the Pacific," Searle says.

None of the realm Pacific nations have recorded a single COVID-19 case during this pandemic. And the organisers hope the masks will never have to be used, but they say it's an important back-up measure just in case.

Basic PPE was in short supply during the measles crisis in Samoa, which killed more than 80 people.

"So even beyond COVID, we really wanted to make sure that there was a solid supply of PPE up in the islands. And not only in the hospital system, but that they were in people's homes," Duff says.

Nuien public health physician Colin Tukuitonga, who helped facilitate the mask project, says COVID-free Pacific nations must remain vigilant.

"So a few cases of COVID-19 on Niue would be disastrous," he says.

He says such supplies are of particular importance ahead of any travel bubbles.

"Totally about being prepared. As long as COVID is lurking around somewhere in the world, nobody is safe."

The masks are expected to reach Niue and Tokelau early in the New Year.