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Rongomau me te haumaru

As a small nation, New Zealand depends on global stability for our security and prosperity.

It is easy to think that because we’re a long way from other countries, we are safe from the problems other countries have. We might feel that threats to peace elsewhere don’t affect us. But in a modern world, they do. New Zealand is vulnerable to disruption. A combat-capable Army that can detect, deter and counter threats to peace and security supports the resilience and well-being of our nation, as well as enabling us to contribute to our nation's obligations as an international citizen.

We don’t do this alone. New Zealand partners with other countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to promote global security. Globally, there are more challenges. Different countries around the world are pursuing goals that are threats to peace. There are individuals who pursue extreme ideologies. Organised crime is international. Countries like New Zealand are stronger when we work with other countries to promote peace and security.

We are a small country, but there are others who are smaller and even more vulnerable. Just as large countries share the responsibilities, so too does New Zealand for our South Pacific neighbours. We are a Pacific Island country and what happens in the South Pacific directly affects our security and well-being. We have a constitutional responsibility to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. The New Zealand Army responds to events in the Pacific and undertakes security and stability operations on direction from the Government.

Why would they ask New Zealand for help? It’s in our history and in the way New Zealanders are viewed around the world. The world views New Zealand as a nation with people who want to do the right thing and help others. This culture is inherent in our Defence Force. We’ve been doing it for a very long time, often as part of an international team trying to prevent or resolve conflict, such as a part of United Nations initiatives. Sometimes it’s important enough to keep helping for years. We have long commitments to peace and security in Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East.

These are some of our stories

Timor Leste

The birth of a nation

Timor Leste has had a long and sometimes brutal passage towards its independence.

1999- 2012

The New Zealand Defence Force enters East Timor as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force to restore order, after violence breaks out following a referendum for independence.

Mounting the East Timor operation puts NZDF’s military capability to the test, and follows months of planning and preparation. This preparation and deployment to East Timor demands collaboration and co-operation from all parts of the NZDF, often under significant time pressure and in an environment of uncertainty, for what is to become a complex and large-scale military operation.

The operation involves three Navy ships and an Army Battalion Group of up to 830 personnel, which includes two infantry companies and a surveillance and reconnaissance company, along with engineer, logistical and medical elements. The Battalion Group is responsible for monitoring militia activity within New Zealand’s assigned area of operation and carries out regular patrols. The area of operation covers some 1,700 square kilometres of rugged terrain, characterised by poor infrastructure, difficult supply routes, limited communications, and considerable destruction by the retreating militia.

Pro-Indonesian militia are burning buildings and killing people in raids around East Timor, and the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) forces – from New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand – were welcomed by the populace.

From 1999 to 2002 New Zealand deploys 5,000 NZDF personnel to the INTERFET deployment and then to United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), making it the largest single deployment of New Zealand military personnel since the Korean War. It provides the foundation for a warm and close relationship between Timor Leste and New Zealand. Timor Leste becomes independent on 20 May 2002.

After New Zealand completes the deployment of a sixth Battalion Group it transitions its focus to providing staff officers and military observers who will supply training assistance to the Falintil Force for the Defence of Timor Leste (F-FDTL), as well as support to the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). 


In May 2006, following significant unrest in Timor Leste, including murders in Dili, the NZDF deploys a company sized group to assist in the restoration of peace and security. A substantial contingent is maintained in Timor Leste until 2012 with a wide variety of personnel involved. Our personnel contribute to the Australian-led military operation and work alongside the New Zealand Police among others. Elections take place successfully and Timor Leste takes full responsibility for its internal security. When the final of 13 contingents depart in November 2012, we continue to support the Timor Leste military with advisers.

NZDF remains committed to East Timor’s security and stability and maintains a strong partnership through the NZDF’s Mutual Assistance Programme, which provides training assistance to the Timor Leste military.