An amphibious beach landing exercise at Whangaparaoa has showcased a brand new capability in the New Zealand Defence Force’s delivery of humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) in New Zealand and the Pacific.
During Exercise Joint Waka last week almost 40 tonnes of adapted forestry equipment, modified to operate in 1.5 metres of water, was driven off the cargo deck of HMNZS Canterbury and transported by one of the ship’s two landing craft to the beach at Army Bay.
It was the first time the Defence Force’s Beach Preparation and Recovery Vehicle (BPRV) had been embarked from Canterbury and been in water. The 18.2-tonne CAT 555D Forestry Skidder has a four-metre wheel base – a tight fit for Canterbury’s stern ramp.
It is designed to clear debris and prepare beaches for landing in a cyclone-hit environment, and tow vehicles if they get bogged. It can also push a landing craft back into deeper water if the craft becomes beached in the surf zone.
Following the BPRV was a CAT 938K loader with a trackway dispenser attached to the front. The 20-tonne vehicle can roll out a modular aluminium trackway, 40 metres long, on the beach, and can deliver more lengths to roll out and connect to the first.
This allows trucks to drive onto a beach with less risk of becoming bogged.
The exercise included continual flying of two Royal New Zealand Air Force NH-90 helicopters to and from the flight deck. The tempo of Navy, Army and Air Force working together was similar to real-time HADR events, such as the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.
From October 23, when the cyclone season starts, Canterbury will be on 24-hour notice to respond to a HADR call in the South Pacific, should the NZ Government request it.
Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Bannister, Canterbury’s Executive Officer, said amphibious operations were a complex business with significant pieces of equipment.
“It makes me extraordinarily proud to represent New Zealand like this, with the ability to deploy to anywhere in the South Pacific with a credible capability to support any of our island nation partners, should any of them be unfortunate enough to be struck by a cyclone.”