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NZ Navy ships to return from Tonga after roles in relief efforts

The New Zealand Defence Force will bring home HMNZ Ships Canterbury and Wellington which have been in Tonga assisting with relief efforts following last month’s undersea eruption and tsunami.

11 February, 2022

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, said that with the transition from an immediate relief response to Tonga’s longer term recovery, the two ships were no longer required to remain.

“The NZDF provided an immediate response to relief efforts and over the past month we have supported Tonga with deliveries of essential supplies, food and water to help meet the basic needs of those who have been affected by this disaster,’’ Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

“The Kingdom of Tonga has expressed thanks for our help with the initial relief response, and they’re looking now to the longer term recovery ahead. As always, the NZDF remains ready to assist if we’re called on again. We have aircraft on standby to take more supplies if required.

“Our Navy ships, HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington, will leave Tonga today and will arrive back in New Zealand early next week.’’

NZDF support to relief efforts in Tonga following the undersea eruption and tsunami last month.

Over the past month since the eruption and tsunami, the NZDF has deployed:

  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion aircraft for reconnaissance of damage in the immediate aftermath of the eruption and tsunami;
  • HMNZS Wellington was deployed with hydrography and dive teams on board to survey shipping lanes, harbours and wharves to ensure safe passage for vessels bringing aid to Tonga;
  • HMNZS Aotearoa and HMNZS Canterbury deployed with humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, and also produced potable water using desalination equipment on board the ships;
  • Helicopters on board Wellington and Canterbury have surveyed damaged areas, to assist Tongan authorities planning recovery efforts;
  • Crew on board an NH90 helicopter, on Canterbury, flew Digicel technicians to uninhabited Kao Island to assist in work to restore communications links including to the Ha’apai group of islands;
  • Aotearoa refuelled Tongan Maritime Force vessels distributing food and aid to Tongan communities, as well as the ships of international military partners assisting relief efforts and delivering aid supplies;
  • Aotearoa and Canterbury worked with Tongan authorities on the movement of international ships into Nuku’alofa; and
  • There have so far been five flights by RNZAF Hercules aircraft to Tonga, delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, communications equipment, and also vaccines, personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests to assist Tonga with its Covid-19 response.

The NZDF’s deliveries of aid and water have been contactless, and Covid-19 protocols have been followed throughout the duration of the deployment.

Tonga relief efforts: HMNZS Canterbury in the foreground while HMNZS Aotearoa is docked at Nuku’alofa

On return to New Zealand, HMNZS Canterbury will immediately start preparations for the ship’s mission to the Sub-Antarctic Islands in March, which will enable the Department of Conservation and MetService to carry out conservation and maintenance work on these remote and protected islands.

View the latest updates on the NZDF Tonga Response page here.