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NZDF co-hosts members of 19 militaries for disaster response training

Members of 19 foreign militaries will collaborate with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and 12 domestic agencies in Wellington over the next 10 days, to plan how they could best work together in the aftermath of a major earthquake.

20 June, 2023

This year’s Exercise Tempest Express is based on a fictional scenario where New Zealand’s capital city has been struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami and causing damage throughout Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua, Kāpiti, Carterton, Masterton and South Wairarapa.

The tabletop exercise will focus on improving multinational coordination, decision-making and responses to such an event.

The aim is to help nations plan and prepare in the event of a disaster in their country, or in a country where they could be called on to help.

Participants will work to find practical solutions to real-life dilemmas such as where military aircraft could land and where ships could berth if Wellington Airport and the port were to suffer significant damage.

The NZDF is co-hosting Exercise Tempest Express 38 with the Multinational Planning and Augmentation Team, which was established by chiefs of defence of Asia-Pacific nations in 2000. Its secretariat resides within the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the NZDF was delighted to officially welcome partners from the Asia-Pacific region and further afield today with a pōwhiri at Waiwhetū Marae in Lower Hutt. Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short was among those welcomed onto the marae, alongside representatives from INDOPACOM and other foreign militaries.

“Training with personnel from other nations builds relationships and improves coordination when military partners are called on to respond,” Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

“This exercise will enable the NZDF and our partners to come together and forge relationships now, so we know who to contact should we ever need each other.

“When a major disaster happens, it’s all hands on deck and the NZDF will support national and regional emergency organisations to get help to where it’s needed most. You need to have planned in advance, so people know how to act and can deliver an emergency response which saves lives.”

Rear Admiral Gilmour said the value of multinational coordination and interoperability was recently highlighted during the Cyclone Gabrielle response; a 34-strong Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief Task Force flew in from Fiji, and Australia sent two C-27J Spartan aircraft and crew, a mobile air load team and environmental health support staff to assist New Zealand’s response.

Among the exercise attendees is a contingent from Nepal, who will share how military partners were able to best provide support after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the Himalayan nation in 2015.

“It’s invaluable to have countries around the table who in recent years have been through natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones, so we can all learn from each other’s first-hand experience,” Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

To gain an understanding of the city’s landscape and infrastructure, participants will be taken on a tour - visiting spots such as Mount Victoria, Wellington Airport and the Interislander ferry terminal. Their guides for the day will be two GNS scientists, and representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO).

Staff from government agencies who are responsible for emergency responses in New Zealand will provide their expertise during the exercise, alongside local iwi.

Exercise Tempest Express 38 will run from 20-30 June, 2023.