17 July 2013
A member of the RNZN Operational Dive Team places a charge in an old WWII munition found in shallow water.
Former Waikato man, Commander (CDR) Trevor Leslie has just returned to New Zealand after commanding a multi-national military operation in the Solomon Islands.
The New Zealand Defence Force-led Operation PUKAURUA involved over 150 personnel from the NZDF, Solomon Islands Police, Australian Defence Force, and the United States and Canadian Navies. The operation cleared over four tonnes of explosives in unexploded World War Two bombs, mortars, grenades and projectiles in and around Munda in the Solomon Islands.
CDR Leslie said that the first task was to clear all known ordnance off Sasavele Island.
"We found over 1500 90mm high explosive projectiles in the Sasavele lagoon.
"We then shifted our focus to Rendova, which was cleared of all known ordnance, and then turned our attention to the village of Munda, where we found explosives around peoples' homes and in the surrounding jungle.
"It’s a tough job, but at the same time it’s a fantastic adventure. I was in the middle of the tropics, blowing up bits of old bombs and making a community a safer place to live in," he says.
CDR Leslie was born in Te Kuiti but moved to Te Awamutu at a young age. After finishing Year 13 at Te Awamutu College in 1986, he joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as a writer.
"I always wanted to be a diver, but back in those days you had to join as something else and then change over to the dive branch. I was lucky enough to pass selection for the dive branch in 1988 and after 13 years in the Operational Dive Team I commissioned as a Mine Clearance Diving Officer."
The change was successful and in 2010 Commander Leslie achieved his ultimate goal of commanding the Navy’s Operational Dive Team. This year he was in charge of a high profile search for the wreckage of a plane off Raglan.
"We’re a small team, but we’re always very busy. Our main job is to protect New Zealand’s strategic waterways through mine disposal, explosive and ordnance demolition and salvage diving.
"But, we also do a lot of work with other Government departments such as Customs and the Ministry of Primary Industries and the New Zealand Police who often call upon us to help recover those lost in New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and oceans.
"The Navy has been really good to me and I have a bit of a bias when recommending it as a career. But all three services provide so many opportunities and I’d love to see more people from Te Awamutu join up.
"All up, my experiences in the Navy have been awesome, and there is nothing else I’d rather be doing."
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