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Peace without guns

A state of civil war had existed between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville since prior to 1990.


HMNZ Ships Waikato, Endeavour and Wellington deploy to host peace talks between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the island of Bougainville.

A state of civil war has existed between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville since prior to 1990. The Bougainvillean people had forced the close down of the Panguna Copper Mine (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Zinc) in May 1989, which was then the world’s largest open pit copper and gold mine. The mining operation had progressively poisoned the Jaba River, destroying wildlife and affecting the general health of people along the river. The dispute was essentially a landowner’s revolt over the lack of reinvestment made in Bougainville, given the massive profits generated by the mine. The mine’s profits accounted for some 40 percent of Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product.

When Waikato anchors in Kieta Harbour, her Commanding Officer and the ship’s Maori Culture Group proceed ashore to make first contact. Later, a delegation embarks onto Waikato and they proceed to sea, while HMNZS Wellington collects the Papua New Guinean delegation. A Wasp helicopter is used to transport both the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville delegations to Endeavour, now positioned in international waters, for peace talks.

Eventually the Endeavour Accord is signed by both parties. It provides for the restoration of services to Bougainville and commits Papua New Guinea to further discussions regarding the constitutional future of Bougainville.


Unfortunately, peace doesn’t last. By 1996, after various attempts to negotiate between the PNG government and Bougainville rebels, the New Zealand Government hosts a series of talks by the warring parties.


A truce is negotiated, with an unarmed New Zealand-led multi-national Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) inserted into the island. Navy personnel are assigned to the TMG, and HMNZ Ships Canterbury, Endeavour and Manawanui are deployed to assist the insertion of the group. The event is famous for an unarmed military force earning the trust and confidence of the Bougainville locals with cultural and people-to-people connections. A cease-fire is finally agreed in 1998.