Exercise has exciting start

Wednesday September 02, 2015 Written by CS/Release Published in Outer Islands
An RNZAF Hercules aircraft about to land on Tongareva (Penrhyn) airstrip on Monday. The airstrip dates back to the 1940s when American troops lived on the island during World War Two. An RNZAF Hercules aircraft about to land on Tongareva (Penrhyn) airstrip on Monday. The airstrip dates back to the 1940s when American troops lived on the island during World War Two. PHOTO: Vaine Wichman

There was plenty of excitement on Penryhn on Monday afternoon when the long-awaited Exercise Twilight began with the arrival of the first RNZAF Hercules aircraft.

 

This aircraft dropped off 30 more military personnel before flying on to Manihiki to drop off army supplies and personnel, said island resident Vaine Wichman.

She said a forward team of about 10 army personnel was already working on setting up a desalination plant to produce water.

“This will avoid compromising the island supply in this El Nino period.”

Wichman said a barge carrying the bulk of the NZ Defence Force’s material to the island had arrived yesterday, while a second Hercules carrying defence force members was also expected to arrive later in the afternoon.

The last members of the Tongareva tere party had also arrived back home on the Lady Moana yesterday, and it would be a challenge for the operators of island government equipment and machines to help with handling cargo from the two vessels and the aircraft, while also offloading and transporting their families’ cargo to their homes in Omoka and Te Tautua, across the lagoon.

Accompanying the military personnel were two Petroleum Solutions engineers who were testing and filtering the current supply of diesel in the old Te Kukupa storage tanks, Wichman said.

“Infrastructure Cook Islands engineer Tenga Mana returned to Rarotonga on Monday evening’s flight after working with GHD engineer Luke Cameron at the site for the new diesel storage tanks and digging the trench for the pipes from the wharf to the new fuel depot site.” An annual event Exercise Twilight this year involves the United States, China, the UK and France, all of whom have interests in the region.

The visiting military personnel will work alongside New Zealand Defence Force personnel, officials from the New Zealand High Commission in the Cook Islands, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Cook Islands Government.

The exercise aims to test the NZDF’s ability to deploy alongside other militaries and governments to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Pacific.

The relocation and rebuilding of the Penrhyn fuel depot will be led by NZDF engineers and will allow better use of the patrol boat Te Kukupa to carry out fisheries surveillance activities and protect the the northern Cook Islands’ EEZ.

Last week New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully said NZDF personnel would also upgrade a number of public buildings including schools and hospitals on Penrhyn and Manihiki to make them more cyclone-resistant. 

Leave a comment