6 February 2019
Five New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) firefighters will go to Tasmania this week to help battle the bushfires that have been burning for weeks in the state’s southeast.
Multiple bushfires, which started before Christmas, have been burning across Tasmania’s south and central plateau, putting communities at risk and burning more than 190,000 hectares so far. Communities south of Hobart and in the Huon Valley are reportedly among the most affected.
Tasmanian authorities said hot and windy conditions and a lack of rain meant it was an uphill battle for firefighters to contain the fires.
Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Engineer Regiment, said the NZDF firefighters would join a large Fire and Emergency New Zealand team assisting crews from Tasmania Fire Service and other parts of Australia.
The NZDF contingent comprised four personnel from the New Zealand Army and one from the Royal New Zealand Air Force and would be deployed for at least 16 days, he said.
NZDF contingent leader Army Corporal Karl Mouldey said this was the first operational deployment overseas for all five members of the contingent.
“This is what the Defence Force is all about – to help those in need and do something good for the community,” Corporal Mouldey said.
Firefighter Lance Corporal James Nunan said the deployment to Tasmania was a great opportunity to help New Zealand’s closest neighbour.
“The Australians were among those who came to our aid following the destructive earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 and the 2016 earthquake in Kaikoura. We help each other out, as good neighbours do,” Lance Corporal Nunan said.
Since Monday, 12 NZDF firefighters have also been sent to help control vegetation fires that have flared in the South Island.
NZDF firefighters are called upon regularly to help respond to emergencies in New Zealand and overseas. They helped control wildfires in Canada and the United States last year, Christchurch and the Coromandel in 2017 and Tasmania in 2016.