The 60-strong multinational task force is getting into full swing in the Northern Group, making steady progress on the New Zealand Defence Force humanitarian assistance project.
CI News had received reports that there were mechanical issues with the New Zealand Defence Force aircraft.
However a spokesman for the New Zealand Defence Force said only ‘minor maintenance’ work was carried out on Rarotonga.
“A RNZAF C-130 airlift aircraft deployed at the start of the exercise underwent some minor maintenance in Rarotonga before heading back to New Zealand.
“The maintenance was completed quickly and the aircraft returned to New Zealand on schedule.”
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is conducting Exercise Tropic Twilight in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Cook Islands government.
The RNZAF is supporting the exercise by flying the engineers and skilled tradesmen from the NZDF’s 2nd Engineer Regiment to the northern Cook Islands atolls of Penrhyn and Manihiki, the spokesman said.
The RNZAF is also helping transport equipment and some of the construction materials needed for relocating and upgrading the Penrhyn fuel depot and refurbishing schools and clinics in the northern Cooks.
“Both projects are on track for completion during the exercise period, which ends on 12 October.”
In a release, Captain Andrew Blackburn, Senior National Officer for the New Zealand contingent, said public buildings are being refurbished to address potential electrical hazards and ensure they can better withstand the devastating cyclones that regularly rip through the Pacific Islands.
Around 40 engineers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians from the NZDF’s 2 Engineer Regiment are working alongside 20 military engineers from China, the United Kingdom and the United States to build a new fuel depot that will support long-range maritime patrols against illegal fishing in the northern Cook Islands.
The New Zealand Aid Programme is funding the new fuel depot and the other infrastructure improvements being delivered as part of the exercise.
The fuel depot is used to refuel the Australian-funded Cook Islands Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa.
“The depot is a critical piece of infrastructure to support Te Kukupa’s policing operations in the northern atolls, where most illegal fishing occurs,” Captain Blackburn said.
“Upgrading the fuel depot will enable the Cook Islands Government to expand its fisheries surveillance in the northern Cooks, which is essential for the sustainable management of this important resource and an increasing source of income for the Cook Islands,” said Nick Hurley, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.
Tropic Twilight aims to practise the NZDF’s capability to deploy alongside other militaries to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) in the Southwest Pacific.
The exercise is being conducted from August 31 to October 12 in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Government of the Cook Islands.
The FAPF (Forces armees en Polynesie francaise) are also supporting this humanitarian activity.
“As a member of this international team led by the NZDF, I’d like to get our tasks perfectly done to help the locals,” said Major Sun Yang Yang from the People’s Liberation Army.
“Furthermore, we want to show our friendly, enthusiastic and open attitude in the HADR operations as a responsible country in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
Sergeant Alan Rothwell from the United Kingdom Corps of Royal Engineers agreed that Tropic Twilight offered “a great opportunity to work alongside different militaries such as the NZDF, US Army and the PLA”.
“It’s the first time we are working with the NZDF. It’s a great opportunity that we appreciate to be a part of,” said Captain George Sablan from the US Army.