NZ patrol boat Hawea to be stationed in Fiji

Friday April 07, 2017 Written by Published in Regional

FIJI – New Zealand will send the inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Hawea and a crew of 25 to Fiji for six months from May in a major advance in defence cooperation between the two countries.

 

Up to six Fijians will also join the Hawea on assignment.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and his Fiji counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, made the announcement in Auckland today where Brownlee is hosting the third South Pacific Defence Ministers meeting.

It is the first time Fiji has joined the meetings, emerging as it has from years of military dictatorship to elected Government, and follows a massive humanitarian deployment to Fiji last year in response to cyclone Winston.

Brownlee said it was an excellent opportunity for New Zealand to partner with Fiji on maritime security and protecting fisheries.

“Fiji is an island nation, like New Zealand, and therefore protecting our maritime resources is extremely important,” he said.

Fiji military forces and fisheries personnel would work closely with the New Zealand crew during the deployment.

Kubuabola said Zealand was one of Fiji’s close partners in the region.

He was pleased to work with it “not only to conduct maritime patrols but also to train together and to strengthen our people-to-people links.”

New Zealand has recently helped train Fiji in pre-deployment training for international peacekeeping operations –- although Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand has been avoiding UN missions because they are too dangerous.

Other countries taking part in the third Pacific defence summit are Australia, Chile, France, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji.

The first was in Tonga in 2013 and the second in Papua New Guinea in 2017.

The agenda included humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping developments, women in the armed forces, future exercises, security challenges, each member’s engagement in the pacific and initiatives to enhance cooperation on regional security.

Ahead of the summit, Brownlee said responding to natural crises was a feature of ongoing co-operation.

Ministers would look at any lessons from the response to the Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand in November last year and cyclone Winston in Fiji in February 2016 which killed at least 44 people and displaced an estimated 45 per cent of the population.

The Fiji deployment was one of New Zealand’s largest peace-time deployments ever and comprised about 150 combat engineers, tradesmen, plant operators, specialists in environmental health and logistics, Army medics, and a 55-member detachment from Air Force’s 3 Squadron.

HMNZS Canterbury and offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington carried almost 500 tonnes of aid supplies and construction materials.

As well as Fiji’s Kubuabola, other Pacific region officials attending the meeting are Papua New Guinea Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo and Tongan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Siaosi Sovaleni.

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