A New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) joint task force departed Auckland today for planned exercises in Vanuatu.
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ships HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington will take part in the exercises.
While in Vanuatu the contingent will deliver more than 50 tonnes of relief supplies for people affected by the eruption on Ambae Island. These will be delivered by Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130H(NZ) Hercules air lifts in the coming days, and by HMNZS Canterbury. The RNZAF will also be providing surveillance support from its P-3K2 Orion aircraft.
The contingent will also be on standby to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to transition from a planned military exercise to deliver real-life assistance to should this be required.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Tim Gall, said the NZDF was always ready to assist its Pacific neighbours if asked for help.
“New Zealand has a long history of engaging collaboratively with our South Pacific colleagues and partners on matters of defence, security and protection of resources,” Major General Gall said.
“Supporting the South West Pacific has always been a key focus for the NZDF because of the geographical proximity and cultural links with New Zealand.
“We have been undertaking exercises in Vanuatu since the late 1980s.”
The aim of the exercise is to give NZDF personnel practice operating in a joint task force in a tropical environment to provide regional security and development assistance, while providing training to members of the Vanuatu Police Force.
The fictitious scenario involves a breakdown of law and order on Epi Island, prompting the Vanuatu Government to request help to re-establish the rule of law and stability for its citizens.
RNZN Captain Garin Golding, Commander of the Joint Task Force, said the exercise was designed to test a range of contingency capabilities in a tropical environment and therefore was ideally placed to contribute to New Zealand support to the response effort if requested by the Vanuatu Government.
“The contingent includes New Zealand Army units, including a light infantry platoon, medical, dental and emergency health teams, as well as divers and mine clearance teams,” Captain Golding said. “It possesses a similar capability to the forces New Zealand deployed for events such as Cyclone Pam, Cyclone Winston and the Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand.”
The NZDF provided assistance to Vanuatu last year following the ongoing eruption on Ambae Island. In September an RNZAF P-3K2 Orion carried out aerial surveys of the volcano and in October the NZDF delivered 14 tonnes of relief supplies to help displaced islanders.