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NZDF Personnel Return Home After Humanitarian Mission

NZDF Personnel Return Home After Humanitarian Mission
April 22
10:00 2016

Around 300 New Zealand troops, sailors and aircrew returned yesterday afternoon from a seven-week humanitarian aid operation in Fiji.

The humanitarian team helped deliver hundreds of tonnes of life-saving aid supplies to remote communities devastated by a cyclone.

“Our people, supported by our ships and aircraft, made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s multi-agency assistance to Fiji and helped strengthen longstanding ties with a Pacific neighbour,” said Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand.

“Their efforts and those of other New Zealand agencies made it a successful mission and I’d like to recognise each member’s contribution to its success.”

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent sailed back to Auckland on board multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury, which served as the maritime hub of New Zealand’s aid operation in the north.

The NZDF deployed about 530 personnel, two ships and seven aircraft after Tropical Cyclone Winston pummelled on February 20, killing at least 44 people and displacing about 45 per cent of the population.

Around 150 combat engineers, tradesmen, plant operators, specialists in environmental health and logistics, and medical personnel from the New Zealand Army and a 55-member detachment from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron also supported one of the NZDF’s largest peacetime deployments to the Pacific.

“Whilst the task of rebuilding will take years to complete, the Fiji Government and public have recognised our people’s contribution to the international effort to get Fijian communities back on their feet,” MajGen Gall said.

“With their help, the Fiji Government was able to repair dozens of schools, medical facilities and community buildings, deliver food and other essential aid supplies to far-flung islands and communities, and restore access to safe drinking water.”

HMNZS Canterbury and offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington carried almost 500 tonnes of aid supplies and construction materials for distressed communities in Yacata Island and Vanuabalavu Islands.

Apart from repairing schools and community buildings, New Zealand Army engineers also set up a water desalination station that produced up to 10,000 litres of drinking water to support the New Zealand contingent and villages on Vanuabalavu Island.

MajGen  Gall said the Fijian mission also proved that the RNZAF’s NH90 helicopters were a strong enabler for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.

The helicopters flew about 160 hours of relief missions that spanned from the northern Lau archipelago, about 290 km to the east of the Fijian capital of Suva, to the Yasawa islands, which make up Fiji’s western border.

“On their first overseas mission, our NH90 helicopters provided a critical link between the main population centres and the remote communities devastated by the cyclone,” MajGen Gall said.

Led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the humanitarian aid operation also involved New Zealand medical volunteers and the New Zealand Fire Service’s Urban Search and Rescue Team.

The NZDF worked alongside the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the Australian Defence Force and the French military in delivering aid to affected areas.

Inforgraphic/Source: New Zealand Defence Force

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